Ohio State University study calculates travel, cost for procedure if Ohio bans abortion

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — An Ohio State University study examined what the result could be for people seeking an abortion if it were not an option in Ohio. The study comes as lawmakers consider a bill that would make abortion illegal if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Abortion advocates unfurl a banner and shut down a vote in the Ohio Senate on an abortion bill, September 28, 2021
Abortion advocates unfurl a banner and shut down a vote in the Ohio Senate on an abortion bill, September 28, 2021. [Jo Ingles | Statehouse News Bureau]
The bill under consideration would allow abortion if the life or health of the mother is in danger but critics question whether the language in the bill would give medical professionals the legal protection the need if they perform an abortion under those conditions. The bill does not include an exception for rape or incest.

Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) was asked during a committee hearing at the Ohio Statehouse earlier this week if a hypothetical 13-year-old girl who was impregnated as a result of rape or incest should be required to carry the fetus to term.

Schmidt said, “It is a shame that it happens but there’s an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is, to make a determination about what she’s going to do to help that life be a productive human being.”

Many of the abortion bills passed at the Statehouse during recent years have not contained exceptions for rape or incest. Of those recent bills that have been signed into law, several have been put on hold by courts.

Right now in Ohio, that 13-year-old and others who become pregnant are within 99 miles of one of the state’s nine abortion facilities if they choose that option. But if this bill passes, that option would not exist in a post-Roe Ohio.

Mikaela Smith, a research scientist with Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, worked on a study about abortion access in Ohio if Roe is overturned. She said it’s important to remember the challenge some Ohioans will face if they are forced to go out of state for an abortion.

“For some people, leaving their state might not be a big deal, right. In a small state like Delaware or Rhode Island, crossing state lines is not necessarily that big of a deal but for a state like Texas or here in Ohio, It can mean actually traveling very far,” Smith said.

OSU Epidemiology student Payal Chakraborty worked on the study too. She said, using federal transportation reimbursement rates for travel, Ohioans could spend as much as $58 for a one-way trip to an abortion clinic under current state law.

“Ohio’s neighboring states also have strict abortion policies. And the best-case post-Roe scenario is where Pennsylvania and Michigan do not ban abortion and, in this scenario, Ohioans would have to travel at most 279 miles one way and this translates to a cost of $163. And in the worst case, post-Roe scenario, Michigan and Pennsylvania will also ban abortion and in this case, Ohioans would have to drive at most 389 miles which translates to a cost of $198,” Chakraborty said.

Chakraborty said the study also shows minorities would be disproportionately impacted by an Ohio abortion ban because of the population distribution in the state and the fact that CDC data shows minorities living in urban areas use abortion more frequently.

Smith said it goes beyond just the cost of actually driving out of state. She says some people who have insurance might find it won’t cover abortions outside of Ohio. She added that, because of the patchwork of abortion laws, overnight stays in hotels might be required in some cases.

Ohio has already passed laws that make abortions more expensive and more difficult to obtain. And some of those, like the one requiring cremation or burial of fetal remains, are on hold by courts for now.

This bill has support from 22 co-sponsors. That’s more than a third of the Republicans in the Ohio House.

For more details on the report, click here.

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