Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, told a crowd of women in Los Angeles how she really feels about the idea of Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, winning the presidential election: "It would be a complete and utter disaster."
She continued, "Gov. Kasich has come off as a moderate, only by comparison to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, but it’s really important to know in Ohio, more than half the providers of safe and legal abortion have had to shut down. He signed 17 separate bills to restrict reproductive access in the state."
We looked more closely to find out how many of Ohio’s abortion providers had closed, and whether it could be attributed to Kasich’s leadership.
Ohio’s chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America has been keeping tabs on clinic closings and openings. They say that since 2011, Kasich’s first year in office, eight of the 16 surgical abortion clinics have closed or stopped performing abortions. A new provider in Akron opened in the summer of 2015, bringing the total number of functioning surgical abortion clinics in the state to nine.
PolitiFact Ohio confirmed NARAL’s tally of closings in Ohio, in chronological order:
February 2011, the Mahoning Valley Women’s Center, Youngstown
June 2012, Capital Care Network, Columbus
April 2013, Capital Care Network, Akron
October 2013, Center for Choice, Toledo
October 2013, Cleveland Center for Women’s Health
June 2014, Cleveland Surgi-Center
August 2014, Complete Healthcare for Women, Columbus
August 2014, Women’s Medical Center of Cincinnati
They key legislation that caused at least four of the clinics to close was passed in Ohio’s 2013 budget (HB 59). Kasich signed into law regulations that equate to a Catch-22 for abortion providers. HB 59 requires all ambulatory surgical facilities to have a transfer agreement with a local hospital to admit patients in case of emergency. At the same time, the law prohibits public hospitals from entering into transfer agreements with abortion providers. H.B. 59, 130th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Ohio 2013)
In 2013, the New York Times wrote about Ohio’s changing climate for women’s reproductive rights. "Ohio has become a laboratory for what anti-abortion leaders call the incremental strategy — passing a web of rules designed to push the hazy boundaries of Supreme Court guidelines without flagrantly violating them."
Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, put it more succinctly last year, when the Columbus Dispatch quoted him as saying, "The goal is to end abortion."
The transfer agreement legislation shut down Toledo’s Center for Choice; the center was unable to get a transfer agreement from a private hospital after legislation outlawed their agreement with the public University of Toledo Medical Center. Today, their phone number forwards calls to a clinic in Michigan, the next-closest location for women seeking surgical abortions in the area.
Likewise, the Women’s Medical Center of Cincinnati was denied an exception to their transfer agreement from the Ohio Health Department and went to court to fight the decision in Hamilton County. The center lost in court and closed in August 2014.
A representative at Cleveland’s Surgi-Center told PolitiFact that when their location’s lease was up in July 2014, they had to move, which meant applying for a new ambulatory surgical center license through the Ohio Department of Health. "Knowing all the problems other clinics were having," the Surgi-Center stopped performing abortions. They still provide reproductive health services like STD screening and birth control.
The Cleveland Center for Women’s Health closed in 2013 and relocated to Detroit, Mich., where there are fewer regulations for clinics that do abortions.
The other four shuttered abortion providers closed for reasons that are not as directly tied to state regulations. The Mahoning Valley center in Youngstown closed as a business decision, according to NARAL. The Capital Care Network location in Akron closed after state inspectors identified safety violations that temporarily halted services, and the provider opted to close rather than correct the issues. In Columbus, Capital Care merged with Founders’ Women’s Health, another abortion provider.
Finally, according to NARAL, the doctors with Complete Healthcare for Women, who still provide complete women’s health care services other than surgical abortions, never gave an explanation for why they stopped performing the procedures after 2014.
Richards said that "more than half the providers of safe and legal abortion have had to shut down."
PolitiFact confirmed that since 2011, seven abortion providers have closed and an eighth stopped performing surgical abortions. That’s half of the previous 16 providers in the state -- not more than half.
Also, four of the eight providers closed for reasons associated with provisions in HB 59, which Kasich signed. But that law hasn’t been directly tied to the other four abortion providers’ decisions to shut down.
We rate Richards’ statement Half True.