Eighteen abortion clinics existed in Ohio when John Kasich took office as governor in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which describes itself as working “to advance reproductive health.” Eleven clinics operate today, and activists on both sides of the abortion debate expect that number to keep dropping. Soon, it could be in single digits.
Toledo’s last abortion clinic, a facility operated by the Capital Care Network, may be the next to close, after its failure to obtain a legally required transfer agreement with a local hospital. A transfer agreement provides assurance that patients will be transported to the hospital in case of an emergency. The clinic lost its old transfer agreement with the University of Toledo Hospital because of an Ohio law enacted last year that bans taxpayer-funded hospitals from making such agreements with abortion clinics. A local private hospital that the clinic approached did not wish to enter into such an agreement. The clinic then attempted to enter into an agreement across state lines with the University of Michigan but was denied permission by an Ohio Department of Health hearing examiner.
On Monday, the Department of Health moved to close a clinic in Sharonville on the grounds that it too is operating without a transfer agreement. Russ Kennedy, the Department of Health’s communications director, says he and others in state government will not comment about such actions because of ongoing legal proceedings throughout the state.
More than 20 abortion clinics existed in Ohio during the 1980s, says Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Right to Life Committee. If the abortion clinics in Sharonville and Toledo do shut down, his organization will be that much closer to achieving its ultimate goal. “We’re closing more abortion clinics in Ohio now not because we passed any additional laws,” he says. “It’s because we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books to ensure that women’s health is a priority.”
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says she believes the Kasich administration is targeting two additional clinics for closure. “As clinics close, we could be looking at the entire western half of the state not having any local abortion provider,” Copeland says. “It scares me to think what it could be.”
What’s actually frightening, says Gonidakis, is the remaining abortion culture in Ohio. He says the clinics are targeting African-American women, while liberals stand by and say nothing. “We’d like to pass a law that says, ‘Ban abortion at conception,’ but that will never take effect,” Gonidakis says. “And you could pass that law six days a week and twice on Sunday, and it’ll get thrown out of the courts every day.”
Instead, he has found success with a strategic approach that considers the response of multiple branches of government. In the last three years, he reports, eleven pro-life bills have been passed without a single challenge in the courts. His group will not push any other pro-life legislation in 2014, with the election just around the corner. Without providing names, he says the pro-life movement hopes to add two representatives with pro-life bona fides to the Ohio legislature this November. He says the addition of these members would bring the pro-life head count to 66 out of 99 representatives. From there, he plans to begin working with legislators, including Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder, representatives of the governor, and the Ohio Department of Health to launch a robust agenda for 2015. Gonidakis expects that agenda will include new regulations for abortion clinics, ways to reduce the number of abortions in the African-American community, and new ideas about how to hold abortion clinics accountable.
The left-wing blog ThinkProgress has written that “Ohio’s War on Women Isn’t Slowing Down Anytime Soon,” but Gonidakis says he has his own hopes for combating the Left’s War on Women. “We’re the only nonprofit that’s trying to work itself out of a job,” he says. “We want to close down. We don’t want to have a reason to exist. But until such time we have an unfortunate court decision in Roe v. Wade that requires us to take an incremental approach.”
— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review.