Some Ohio doctors and medical clinic managers say if the Ohio legislature passes some anti-abortion bills now under consideration, it’s very possible there will be a shortage of doctors and medical facilities to serve the needs of Ohio women. And they warn more Ohio women will die due to complications from pregnancies.
There are four bills in the Ohio legislature that are worrying some doctors. Three are attached to the budget. One would re-prioritize and thereby cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. The other two would make it harder for abortion clinics to get the transfer agreements with hospitals that are needed to operate and would give the state health director more control over those clinics. Another new bill would put many restrictions on abortion, including possibly requiring transvaginal ultrasounds, requiring doctors to tell patients information that many physicians say is incorrect, and mandating certain abortions could be done when there’s only a clearly defined medical emergency. OB/GYN Marc Parnes says if these bills pass, Ohio’s maternal death rate to increase.
"I believe truly that it will put lives in jeopardy," says Parnes.
OB/GYN Dr. Jason Melillo agrees.
"Unfortunately you end up with a husband without a wife or other kids without a mother for something that’s completely preventable," says Melillo. "That’s where we see these kinds of things in action on a daily basis. It’s different when people talk about these things in abstract and they talk about people who just don’t want to be pregnant. We see far more people who want to be pregnant but unfortunately something happens, either to the Mom or the baby or the pregnancy in general. And you are not making a decision between the Mom and the baby most times. You are making a decision between saving the Mom and losing them both. And that’s where you run into trouble with things like this when politicians start intervening in places they have no business doing so."
Columbus OB/GYN Chris Copeland has delivered more than eight thousand babies in his practice. But he says the bills under consideration would tie the hands of doctors. And he thinks many doctors would steer clear of practicing obstetrics and gynecology because of it, creating a doctor shortage, especially in already underserved areas of the state. Plus he thinks it will drive up costs.
"If these kind of changes get put into effect, you are going to see malpractice rates go up once again because there will be increased risks associated with that for somebody trying to practice medicine," says Copeland.
"There’s no basis in fact there because I don’t know of one doctor who’s going to leave the state of Ohio because we are trying to make sure abortion clinics are safe, clean and legally operated," says Mike Gonadakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. He takes issue with the doctors’ views on the new legislation. He says the doctors are wrong when they say these bills will be dangerous for Ohio women.
"Apparently anyone at that press conference didn’t read what the actual amendments will do. It protects pro life taxpayer dollars and it insures women’s health. Any other claims is just rhetoric," says Gonadakis.
As far as plans to reprioritize federal family planning dollars and taking money away from Planned Parenthood, Gonadakis says the idea is to make the money goes where low income women go.
"What we did is have the money follow the women and where women are going who need access to these family planning dollars are to community health centers – the vast majority of them are."
Gonadakis says the majority of Ohio lawmakers are pro life and doing the will of voters. Opponents of these bills say the current lawmakers are enjoying bad redistricting plans. But Dr. Melillo says the politics of these bills shouldn’t matter anyway.
"I am not a politician or policy maker. I am a doctor. And when I wear this coat, I am neither pro life or pro choice. I am not red nor blue. I am not Democrat or Republican. I am an advocate for my patients in all regards. And if a woman can’t trust that her doctor is doing what is in her best interest because he or she is mandated by the State of Ohio to either say or do things that might not be the best for her, then the entire doctor patient relationship is compromised," says Melillo.