The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
The Senate passed its version of the state budget Wednesday, which includes new regulations on abortion providers that advocates say are medically unnecessary and a backdoor effort to restrict access.
State law currently requires “ambulatory surgical facilities” — outpatient surgery centers that include abortion providers — to create written agreements with a local hospital outlining a patient transfer protocol for emergencies.
However, facilities can request the state health director, who is appointed by the governor, to green light a variance from these agreements, so long as they demonstrate they’ve made other arrangements with local physicians who have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
The new budget proposal, released Tuesday, adds new hurdles to clear for the providers. They include:
- The hospital with admitting privileges must be within a 25-mile radius of the facility. (Current law requires facilities to provide information on travel time between facility and hospital but imposes no limits.)
- The physician cannot teach or provide instruction at a medical school.
- The physician must actively practice clinical medicine within a 25-mile radius of the facility.
Laurel Powell, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said these restrictions are not medically necessary and serve as veiled attacks on abortion access.
“Yet again, they are throwing things in the budget that have nothing to do with the budget that are going to impact abortion in the state of Ohio,” she said.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said to reporters he viewed the amendment as “corrective” of the Ohio Department of Health’s failure to consider travel time between physicians, hospitals they can practice at, and the facilities themselves.
He said the purpose of the law is to protect the women involved, and “having four doctors sign a piece of paper” doesn’t ameliorate the concern.
The budget also contains $3 million per year in funding to the “Parenting and Pregnancy Program” within the Department of Jobs and Family Services. These clinics, often known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” expressly aim to dissuade pregnant women from receiving an abortion, and their critics accuse them of deceptive practices.
Also on Wednesday, a Senate committee began its review of the “born alive” abortion bill, which would criminalize physician inaction in “botched abortions” — which state data shows is a fairly rare event.
Abortion is currently legal in Ohio up to 20-weeks post-gestation.