If Roe V. Wade is overturned, what’s next for Ohio?

One of the biggest changes to abortion access in 50 years could be coming, after a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion last week showed a conservative majority planning to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It’s not official yet what the final ruling will be. But Ohio’s Republican-led legislature is gearing up with proposed “trigger bans” that seek to outlaw abortion if Roe is gone.

The Dayton Daily News took a closer look at what we know so far, what could happen next, and how people could be affected.

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If Roe were overturned, would abortion become illegal in Ohio?

Abortion is legal in Ohio. However, the state is among those likely to ban it at some point if Roe is overturned.

The Ohio General Assembly is considering two proposed trigger bans, Senate Bill 123 and House Bill 598, which would ban abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe. The bills include exceptions if necessary to prevent death or significant bodily harm to the pregnant person.

Several Ohio laws also have been passed over the years to restrict abortions but are on hold by the courts based on current precedent. Overturning Roe v. Wade could potentially impact these laws.

When could changes happen?

What happens next in Ohio depends on the timing of the court and legislature.

The leaked draft opinion is for a case that the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to announce a ruling for in June, though it is unclear if the leak alters that timeline.

If a trigger ban is passed by the legislature and Roe is overturned, then abortion would be banned in Ohio once the law goes into effect. A signed act typically becomes law after 90 days in Ohio.

Will people travel to other states for abortion?

Travel times and wait times will get longer if a ban happens in Ohio.

If Michigan and Pennsylvania do not ban abortion in a post-Roe scenario, Ohioans would need to travel at most 279 miles to access an abortion provider, according to Payal Chakraborty, a researcher getting a Ph.D. in epidemiology at Ohio State University. She is part of the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network, a collaboration studying abortion and policy.

If those states also ban abortion, the longest distance an Ohioan would have to drive would be 339 miles.

Currently, the longest drive Ohioans have to make is 99 miles to get one way to the nearest abortion facility.

The impact of increased driving distance is not equitably distributed, Chakraborty said, based on her research.

“So people with financial insecurity, people of color and people living in rural areas are disproportionately impacted by a ban on abortion in Ohio,” she said.

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Who typically gets an abortion in Ohio?

If an overturned Roe. v. Wade led to an Ohio abortion ban (as pending state legislation proposes), it would impact thousands each year seeking abortions in the state.

There were 20,605 induced abortions in Ohio in 2020, according to the latest annual report by the Ohio Department of Health. This includes 19,438 abortions obtained by Ohio residents (94.3%). While there was an increase in 2020, overall there has been a steady decline in terminations over the past two decades.

The majority of patients who received abortions were in their 20s (59.2%). Most were less than nine weeks pregnant (62.3%).

About 48% of residents who received an abortion in Ohio were Black and nearly 44% were white. About 77.4% of patients reported they were not Hispanic, while 4.6% reported they were Hispanic, though a significant portion (17.9%) didn’t report either category.

About 86% of women with known marital status who obtained abortions were never married, divorced or widowed.

About 38% of women who received an Ohio abortion in 2020 reported a high school degree or GED as their highest level of education. The second most common education level was some college but no degree (22.4%).

What does the public want?

The news drew swift reaction from Ohioans, politicians and both anti-abortion and abortion-rights organizations.

President of Ohio Right to Life Michael Gonidakis said the group is cautiously optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court “will rule correctly and overturn the most reckless decision in our nation’s history.”

Chakraborty noted that the majority of women of reproductive age support abortion. A survey of Ohio women 18 to 44 from October 2018 to June 2019 showed 53% of respondents were supportive of abortion, with 30% offering mixed views and 17% being unsupportive.

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Protestors gathered in downtown Dayton on May 3 to support abortion rights. The rally by Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance was part of a wave of protests nationally.

Lynn Buffington was at the rally and said she was in college before the Roe v. Wade case was decided.

“I had close friends that needed abortions, and I know how difficult it was. Both my friends ended up OK, but it could be life-destroying,” Buffington said.

Nancy Heckler said she came out to the protest because of her family history. Her grandmother died at 36 after giving birth to three more children than her doctor said was safe. Her grandmother’s sister died related to an abortion gone wrong.

“I feel like my two relatives were martyrs for women’s reproductive rights,” she said.

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