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What Does Reproductive Justice Activism Look Like After the Clinics Close?

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On a muggy evening in mid-September, I drove from my home in Cincinnati to a rally 15 minutes west at a Planned Parenthood health center that was slated to close. Earlier that week, news broke that because of a reduction in funding, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio would shut down two of its nine clinics in the state. In August the organization was forced to withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program after an unprecedented Trump administration rule prohibited those funds from going to facilities that provide abortions or refer patients to abortions elsewhere. Title X subsidizes birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other medical care for 4 million low-income patients. The soon-to-be-shuttered clinics, both of them in Cincinnati, served over 6,000 patients a year, with services including pregnancy testing and birth control. Neither location provided abortions. But staffers there acknowledged that abortion is a legal, legitimate form of health care that clients could pursue elsewhere. For that, these clinics and others like them across the country lost their access to federal funds.

I parked my car on a residential street called Prosperity Place and walked the few blocks to the health center, a squat, cream-colored building near a gas station. The center’s manager addressed a crowd of about 200 and listed the types of people who regularly came through the doors: LGBTQ patients who appreciated staffers using their preferred gender pronouns, a 17-year-old facing a positive HIV test, students from nearby Western Hills High School stopping in for free condoms. The testimony was moving, but the outlook was grim. A couple of days earlier, I asked Kersha Deibel, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, where the people served by these clinics might turn after they’re closed. Those with transportation could go to other Planned Parenthood locations, Deibel said, but “they shouldn’t have to go anywhere else.”

In the national narrative about the places where abortion rights are under greatest threat, media attention has focused on the South, particularly on the abortion bans passed in Georgia and Alabama. But this year Ohio passed a ban after the sixth week of pregnancy, which was signed into law in April. (In July a federal judge blocked it.) A ban on abortion after 20 weeks has been in effect since 2017. This year’s Title X rule change was a blow, but something similar had already happened on the state level. In 2016 then–Republican Governor John Kasich signed a bill barring the state from funding health programs that cover sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and infant mortality and sexual violence prevention if those programs are provided by clinics that also provide abortions. That law was tied up in court until March, when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. In his eight years in office, Kasich enacted 21 restrictions on abortion. During his tenure, half the clinics providing abortions in Ohio closed. “It’s one thing after another after another after another,” said Jaime Miracle, the deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “When all this stuff happens in the South, it’s ‘Bam! It’s happening.’ Here it’s been death by a thousand cuts.”

In 2014 one of Toledo’s two clinics closed. That year the number of abortions in Lucas County, which includes the city, declined. But Miracle said people crossed state lines to go to clinics in Detroit, which is closer to Toledo than Columbus or Cleveland. The flood of restrictions has also pushed more Ohioans past the 20-week mark, at which point they have to leave the state to terminate their pregnancies. A 24-hour waiting period for abortion that requires patients to visit clinics twice to have the procedure, parental consent laws, and the prevalence of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) can slow down the process, pushing women later into pregnancy before they can get the procedure.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !