The number of induced abortions performed in Montgomery County last year increased 24% from 2020 and followed an upward trend seen across the state, Ohio Department of Health data shows.
“What the last few months has really brought into focus is that each of these numbers is a person, a person who needed abortion care and was able to get the care they needed,” Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jaime Miracle said in a statement. “For several months in 2022, Ohioans didn’t have that option.”
Approximately 15.9% of Ohio abortions in 2021 occurred in Montgomery County. The state’s data shows 3,458 abortions occurred in Montgomery County in 2021, which is up from 2,770 in 2020.
“That’s disturbing to say the least,” said Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life. In referencing the increase in Montgomery County, she said, “That’s just heart breaking.”
A total of 21,813 induced pregnancy terminations were reported in Ohio for 2021, including 20,716 obtained by Ohio resident women, according to ODH’s 2021 Induced Abortions in Ohio report.
“We know that all kinds of people need abortions for all kinds of reasons,” Miracle said. “Getting access to abortion means that they can take care of the kids they already have, continue their education, and get access to life saving medical treatment.”
Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a statement these figures were “disheartening” and a “significant loss of life.”
“As we pause to pray and mourn the deaths of these 21,813 babies, we must also continue our advocacy for life—ensuring women have access to health care, prenatal care, and other maternal services necessary to make life-affirming choices,” Gonidakis said. “We are confident that Ohioans are on the right track to ending abortion now that the United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe. Ohio Right to Life will continue its pro-life advocacy in communities across the state and within the halls of our state government.”
Gonidakis also made a statement saying, “Tragically, abortion is becoming a predominant cause of death for African Americans babies.” Approximately 43.3% of abortions were done on Black people in the state of Ohio compared to 40.3% of white people. According to the U.S. Census, Black people or African Americans make up approximately 13.3% of the state’s population.
Local counties see increases
When breaking down the abortions by the county of residence, the majority of Dayton-region counties saw a slight increase in the number of their residents who had induced abortions from 2020 to 2021. Champaign, Clark, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, and Warren counties each had increases in the number of residents who had induced abortions, while Butler and Darke counties saw slight decreases.
Warren County saw the biggest jump, reporting 215 residents who had abortions in 2021, up from 174 in 2020. Montgomery County, the largest metropolitan area, reported 1,318 residents who had abortions in 2021, up from 1,292 in 2020. In Montgomery County, the majority of the abortions were had by residents between the ages of 25 and 29, with seven reported for individuals under the age of 15.
Abortions increasing nationally
Abortions have been increasing nationally since around 2017, breaking the previous 30-year decline, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a national research facility that supports access to abortion. The Guttmacher Institute tracks abortion numbers by contacting all known facilities providing abortion in the United States to collect information about service provision, including total number of abortions.
In 2020, there were 930,160 abortions in the U.S., an 8% increase from 862,320 abortions in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Abortions also increased in every region of the U.S. with the largest increases of 12% and 10% in the West and Midwest, respectively.
During this time, some states lost access to low- or no-cost contraceptive care, while others who previously may not have been able to afford the procedure could possibly do so through expanded Medicaid coverage, depending on where the individual lived, or through local or national abortion funds increasing. The Guttmacher Institute noted there were also 168 abortion restrictions and bans implemented in 25 states, although some of those restrictions were not put into place due to legal challenges.
The current state of abortion access in Ohio in flux. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins last month issued a 14-day restraining order on Ohio’s law that bans abortions upon detection of a fetal heartbeat, and that pause was later extended to Oct. 12. Abortions are currently allowed through 20 weeks’ gestation, which is what Ohio law allowed before the heartbeat bill, which banned abortions as early as six-weeks.
“I know it’s a disaster for women in Ohio and young girls in Ohio, as young as 10 years old, to have access to abortion denied to them,” Joy Schwab, a founding member of Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance, said about the heartbeat bill. “Most women don’t know they’re pregnant by then, so what are they supposed to do when they find out?”
On Friday, the same judge heard arguments from attorneys for abortion providers who have asked Jenkins to issue a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the heartbeat law until a final decision is made.
Advocates cite women’s health concerns
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder studied the maternal mortality consequences of losing or limiting abortion access. For Ohio, researchers estimated the maternal death rate could rise as much as 14% if abortions are completely banned in the state by exposing pregnant individuals to more risks of maternal death. Nationally, the study speculated the people who would be most impacted would be non-Hispanic Black people, suggesting there would be a 39% in maternal deaths due to a lack of abortion access in 26 states.
Even with exceptions that allow for abortions if the life of the mother is at risk, Schwab said that creates more confusion for doctors to determine at one point the mother’s life is in danger.
“How close to death does she have to be?” Schwab said. “Women are going to die because doctors are going to be afraid to intervene in timely manner.”
Schwab talked about a local woman who needed to undergo an abortion due to an abnormality of the fetus putting the mother’s life at risk. The heart of the fetus was outside of its body and attached to the placenta, but local doctors refused to do an abortion, so the patient had to go to the Women’s Med Center.
“This is not an issue around politics or religion,” said YWCA Dayton president and CEO Shannon Isom. “This is a health care issue.”
YWCA organizations across the nation have repeatedly supported access to abortion, saying it is apart of reproductive health care, which is “essential to the pursuit of gender and racial justice.”
“The more that we use it and use it in contexts other than health, it can become a weapon specific for women,” Isom said about the discourse around access to abortion. In terms of intimate partner violence, she said, “Women are more at risk of being killed when they’re pregnant.”
In regard to maternal health, anti-abortion advocates say there are risks to future pregnancies with abortion. According to the Mayo Clinic, elective abortion isn’t thought to cause fertility issues or complications in future pregnancies, but risks to future pregnancies may depend on the type of elective abortion performed. The Mayo Clinic cites complications from multiple surgical abortions may lead Asherman syndrome, which is associated with difficulty in becoming pregnant in the future.
“I wish it was harder to get an abortion here in Montgomery County,” Christie said. “It’s the pregnancy centers and places like our baby pantry that offer solutions for women.”
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