By Carolyn Casper
President of Ohio NOW
Maternal mortality is up in Ohio. Our state’s infant mortality rate – especially for black babies – is among the nation’s highest, and in some neighborhoods it’s higher than rates common in the Third World.
Yet instead of promoting laws and policies that help Ohio moms and kids avoid early deaths, our legislators are pushing for new laws that would continue to hurt both.
This very week, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear a case that could close Toledo’s last abortion clinic, and a legislative committee hears a bill to ban abortions if medical tests show a fetus has Down syndrome. People who terminate such pregnancies would face fourth-degree felony charges. Physicians could lose their licenses.
As Ohio leaders continue their assault on Planned Parenthood and piecemeal effort to outlaw abortion, a bill designed to protect those who visit and work in reproductive health care centers from the rising tide of violence outside clinic doors appears to be stuck in committee – again.
At Preterm, Cleveland’s only remaining abortion clinic, surveillance cameras recently caught a young man tossing a brick through one of its windows, marking the clinic’s 10th broken window this year.
Columbus responded to rising clinic violence and vandalism with an ordinance establishing a 15-foot buffer around clinics to keep away aggressive anti-abortion protesters. It uses a law already in place against disorderly conduct but increases the penalty for violators. Violence outside a Toledo clinic prompted Toledo City Council to debate a similar ordinance. A vote is expected later this year.
Ohio is part of a national trend. The 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey found that anti-abortion violence in 2016 was higher than it’s been in two decades. More than 34 percent of US abortion providers reported “severe violence or threats of violence” in the first half of 2016, compared with 19.7 percent in 2014.
With clinic violence on the rise, it’s time that all Ohio women can access their health care, and all clinic workers can access their jobs, without intimidation or fear.
Reps. Stephanie Howse of Cleveland and Michele LePore-Hagan of Youngstown are sponsoring House Bill 234, also known as the Clinic Protection Bill. It would make it a crime to impede access to a reproductive health care facility and make it a crime to harass or intimidate its employees.
And let’s be honest: there is no other medical procedure that inspires total strangers to sometimes use violence to try and force their will on patients.
Ohio is blessed with world-class hospitals, medical schools and health care providers. These providers know the importance of access to comprehensive, quality healthcare. They also know that if we don’t do more to stop clinic violence, more people will be hurt.