Published October 24, 2013 by Cleveland.com
By Jeremy Pelzer, Northeast Ohio Media Group.
COLUMBUS, Ohio—With one Toledo abortion clinic shut down and the other in danger of closing, some – but not all – abortion providers in Michigan are seeing increased traffic from the south.
An informal survey of several Michigan abortion clinics indicates there's little conclusive evidence so far about the degree to which the closings, as well as new restrictions on the practice in Ohio, are forcing women to look to other states to terminate their pregnancies.
So far this year, three of Ohio’s 14 abortion clinics have closed, including the Center for Choice in Toledo. At least two other facilities in Toledo and the Cincinnati area, respectively, are reportedly in danger as well.
If Toledo’s last remaining clinic, Capital Care Network of Toledo, closes down, the nearest clinic to Ohio’s fourth-largest city would be Northland Family Planning, located 57 miles north in Westland, Mich.
Northland, which also operates two other abortion clinics in southeastern Michigan, has been working to fill the growing void in abortion services in northwest Ohio.
The website and phone number for the Center for Choice, the Toledo clinic that closed in June, now redirects patients to Northland, said Lara Chelian, who manages Northland’s appointment center.
And patients have come. About a third to one-half of the patients visiting the Westland clinic – 30 to 40 women a month – are from Ohio, Chelian said.
The number of Ohioans scheduling abortions at Northland has grown so rapidly that the company is hiring additional staff to handle the demand, she said.
Ohioans have visited Northland for years, she said, especially for late-term abortions, which are banned in Ohio, and medication abortions, which are restricted in the state.
But Chelian said there’s been a “noticeable increase” in patients from the Buckeye State, starting in late summer and accelerating in September.
“We’re glad that we’re here and are able to help the women that are in need of these services,” she said.
Dr. Jacob Kalo of the Women’s Center of Michigan, a Detroit abortion clinic, said he believes he’s seen a “slight increase” in the number of Ohioans coming in during the past 2-3 months, though he said he doesn’t always know when a patient is from out-of-state.
“Usually, the issue comes up when I just ask the patient how she feels, when she’s going home, how far (away) she lives,” he said.
But other clinics haven't seen any recent bump in Ohio patients.
The number of Ohioans undergoing abortions at Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan's health centers in Ann Arbor and Detroit has averaged about two per week during the past two months -- the same rate as before Ohio's new rules passed and clinics closed, according to spokeswoman Desiree Cooper.
However, Cooper said she expected that number would gradually rise as Ohio's new laws sink in and clinics remain closed.
"I think it’s just starting to dawn on people and affect people," she said.
Kellie Copeland, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said Ohio’s prior restrictions on abortions, including a late-term ban, have already forced many women to look outside the state.
But the new rules in the state budget, passed earlier this year, have "exacerbated" the situation, she said. The new regulations include a ban on abortion clinics entering into required transfer agreements with public hospitals, which helped lead to the Toledo clinics’ woes and could cause other facilities to shut down as well.
“I think that a state that prides itself on having some of the best medical institutions in the country should be ashamed of itself for forcing its citizens, for forcing its women, to go to other states for safe, legal, constitutionally protected health care,” Copeland said.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right To Life, said Ohio women have had out-of-state abortions for decades.
“But I don’t believe that there’s a mad dash for the border, either, because of any pro-life laws that have passed,” he said, noting there are still 11 abortion clinics open in Ohio.
Instead, he said he believes that more people are choosing to have their child or are preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
October 24, 2013