‘It was a very grueling 60 days’; Providers, activists detail the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, one year later

Dayton Right to Life: “It was a win for babies and moms.”

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Saturday marked the one-year anniversary since the U.S. Supreme Court rescinded the five-decade-old right to abortion. For approximately 11 weeks following the end of Roe v. Wade, Ohio was under a six-week abortion ban. Now a year later, confusion and court cases have since set the stage for the abortion debate in Ohio, and voters may get a chance to decide for themselves.

“It was a win for babies and moms,” Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life, said about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, which struck down Roe v. Wade. “Our mission has never wavered in 51 years, regardless of the political status of abortion, we will continue providing resources, education, and support to women and families in need.”

Once the Dobbs decision was in place, a previous injunction on Ohio’s Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act, or the Heartbeat Bill, was lifted. Gov. Mike DeWine had previously signed the Heartbeat Bill in April 2019, but a preliminary injunction prevented state officials from enforcing it until the Dobbs decision last year. The law bans abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy.

“Once the Dobbs decision was in place and Roe v. Wade was overturned, 50 years of precedent was overturned. We were only able to provide abortion care prior to six weeks, and that included medication abortion,” said Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio.

Impact on access, patients

The Heartbeat Bill was in effect for approximately 11 weeks before a new court challenge imposed a new preliminary injunction on it. While the full impact of this ban will not be known until a later date due to reporting delays — Ohio typically releases its induced abortions report in September — clinics reported significant drops in the patients they were able to serve in Ohio, having to send them to other states with less strict laws.

“We did actually send, for about 60 days, had to send upwards of 500 patients to states like Michigan, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, places like that who were willing and able to open their doors and see our patients, but it was a very grueling 60 days when we had to ask our patients — many of them had never left their neighborhood, their city — and we were now asking them to travel across state lines to actually access health care,” Deibel said.

During that time, patients of the Dayton Women’s Med Center in Kettering would have their pre-op visit locally before going to the center’s Indianapolis facility to have the surgery, a representative of the center told the Dayton Daily News.

“The state of Ohio imposed a burden on Dayton women seeking a termination by forcing them (to) travel at least 250 miles or more to receive the service. This impacted women financially and put some women at medical risk,” the representative said.

Additionally, the center stopped prescribing the abortion pill during that time due it being unknown if the patients prescribed the medication would take it in Indiana or Ohio.



The Women’s Med Center is seeing more patients this year compared to last year, the representative said, but an estimate was not available. They see about 3,500 patients per year.

“We have always seen patients and received physician referrals from several states. That continues to be the case. What has changed now is the mix — we see more patients from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee because those states are not allowing abortions. We have also had patients fly to Dayton from Texas,” the representative said. “It is very busy for us as we try to accommodate all women seeking to terminate, many of whom are traveling hundreds of miles to reach us.”

Right to Life saw increases in needs

Dayton Right to Life also saw an influx of women seeking help after the Heartbeat Bill was in effect for approximately 11 weeks.

“Through the course of the summer, through about August or September, our pantry really experienced an increase with moms coming and getting information and getting assistance and all that kind of stuff. So it was actually really eye opening about what actually had been going on this whole time for the last 50 years,” said Christie. “We were excited that we were able to help women get some assistance and get them to choose life for their child.”

What was a grueling time for some during the 11 weeks the Heartbeat Bill was in effect was a success to others trying to outlaw abortion.

“Our phones started going off the hook ringing as to what our next steps would be in the state of Ohio, and you had to take a moment to pause and reflect, because for over 50 years, men and women way before me have been fighting for life not just in Ohio but across the country,” Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said when the Supreme Court handed down its decision.

It wasn’t entirely a victory for anti-abortion activists. This just brought the debate to the state level, Gonidakis said.

“The court’s decision did not result in a victory for the pro-life movement because a victory defined by us is ending abortion, but what the court did, is they got it right that there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion, and we always believed that this is a state’s rights decision,” Gonidakis said.

Clashing opinions

Both sides continue to disagree about whether or not the laws restricting access to abortion are harmful to the people seeking them.

Members of the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, including co-founder Dr. Marcela Azevedo, say the Heartbeat Bill put patients’ lives in danger. The Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights formed after the Dobbs decision and received support from more than 1,000 physicians.

“It’s incredible that it’s been a year since the Dobbs decision came through and really changed the world of patient care as we all know it here as physicians,” said Dr. Lauren Beene, co-founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights. “For me, that all started on the Monday after the Dobbs decision almost one year ago when I came to work and realized through my patient interactions that we were facing a true medical crisis in our state, as well as in the country at large, but particularly in the state of Ohio.”

The group has been part of an effort to bring a proposed amendment before Ohio voters to ensure access to abortion. On Thursday, Beene said they believed they had collected enough signatures to meet the submission deadline in July to get it placed on the November ballot.

Gonidakis said Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights doesn’t represent all doctors, noting there are tens of thousands of licensed physicians in Ohio. Gonidakis sits on the State Medical Board of Ohio.

“Their claims of women’s health is ridiculous because every law that I’ve worked on at Ohio Right to Life in the past 16 years always has an exception to save the life of the mother. Every single one, including the Heartbeat Bill,” Gonidakis said.

A doctor with Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights said even with the five exceptions written out in the Heartbeat Bill, “there’s just tremendous degrees of unknown.”

Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights still has to go through the process of certifying their proposed amendment for the ballot, while an August special election seeks to impose a supermajority rule for citizen-led initiatives on the ballot.

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