Ohio’s TRAP law may soon force the last remaining abortion clinic in the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area to close, leaving an estimated 2.1 million people without access to a comprehensive reproductive healthcare site.

Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center received a notice earlier this week from state health officials threatening to shut down the facility for failure to obtain a transfer agreement with a local private hospital.

Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) signed into law a requirement that abortion clinics obtain a written agreement with a local hospital willing to take patients from the clinic in an emergency, despite the fact that emergencies are extremely rare and hospital emergency rooms must already accept patients. The Governor also signed new rules that prohibit publicly-funded hospitals from having so-called transfer agreements with abortion clinics, leaving clinics at the mercy of private hospitals, many of whom are religiously-affiliated and oppose abortion.

Existing clinics, however, could apply for a variance that would exempt the facility from the requirement. The Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center applied for a variance over a year ago, but according to a Planned Parenthood spokesperson, the state failed to respond to that request. A second clinic, Women’s Med in Dayton, has also applied for a variance and is also still awaiting a response.

This summer, the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, also in the greater Cincinnati area, faced closure when it could not find a hospital willing to sign a transfer agreement. The state department of health also denied the clinic a variance, though the facility had received it in past years. After losing an appeal, the clinic decided to stop performing abortions in late August.

Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, criticized the state’s failure to respond to these requests. “This is the sort of behavior we expect from political hacks, not public health professionals,” she said. “This is politicians playing games with women’s health, and it is shameful.”

Since 2013, Ohio has gone from 14 abortion providers to 8 because of the Ohio TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law, and Cincinnati is now slated to become the largest metropolitan area in the country without a provider.

TRAP laws like the one in Ohio are political ploys meant to close abortion clinics. “‘Protecting women’s health’ is a phrase that gets used often in the abortion debate,” Nancy Pitts, the Director of Development and Communications at Preterm, one of the last remaining abortion clinics in Ohio, told Feminist Newswire. “But it’s important to understand that these regulations have nothing to do with the health and safety of women.”

Politicians claim these laws promote patient safety, but in fact, they compromise women’s health by forcing out legitimate reproductive healthcare providers through a patchwork of medically unnecessary, burdensome, bureaucratic rules. “The women truly at the mercy of these legislative onslaughts are the low-income women without the means to overcome these barriers that politicians are placing in front of them,” says Pitts.

Media Resources: RH Reality Check 10/27/14, 4/3/14; Columbus Dispatch 10/25/14; Cincinnati.com 10/24/14, 8/29/14; Feminist Newswire 8/22/14, 7/1/13; Guttmacher Institute Spring 2013; Preterm.org

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