Part One – The Bureaucratic Smoke Screen:
Since the 1970s, termination of pregnancy has become legal and accessible in most developed countries. In the U.S., however, women have experienced only barriers. With a focus on patients, opponents have used waiting periods; mandated, medically unnecessary tests; healthcare coverage bans; gestational limits; and required counseling to construct barriers to accessing abortion.
But now, opponents have turned their target toward providers by enacting burdensome policies that have nothing to do with protecting women’s health. These regulations show the government overstepping its bounds and co-opting the health department for political purposes.
In 2013, Ohio passed House Bill 59, a 3,700-page budget bill that included everything from dog registration to school financing. What’s so bad about this bill? Amendments were added without public debate, had nothing to do with the budget, and made it harder to access healthcare.
House Bill 59 had a number of abortion restrictions, including a requirement that ambulatory surgical centers (facilities outside hospitals) have written transfer agreements with local hospitals. Abortion clinics are considered ambulatory surgical centers, and transfer agreements outline what happens in an emergency. HB59 forbids public hospitals (those receiving state funds) from entering into transfer agreements with abortion clinics and from using physician admitting privileges to circumvent this requirement. It’s a catch-22!
The government forces abortion clinics to have an unnecessary transfer agreement with a local hospital then prevents hospitals from signing these agreements. Nine states have laws requiring transfer agreements, but Ohio is the only one limiting what types of hospitals can enter into these agreements.
Public hospitals have to accept all patients whose lives are in danger, no matter the circumstance. In a lawsuit brought by an Ohio clinic, a letter states: “The Christ Hospital accepts all emergency patients that need transfers…It is unfortunate that Ohio is now requiring a separate transfer agreement.” Even hospitals understand the redundancy! These regulations are nothing more than a way to close abortion clinics through bureaucracy.
The ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit against these budget amendments because they violate the state’s ‘single subject rule’ that mandates legislation deal with only one issue, the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations. Good government means following the rules. The Ohio legislature did not.