SPECIAL REPORT: Tears, confusion at abortion provider after ‘Heartbeat Bill’ becomes law

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Linda Archer described her decades-long fight against abortion while standing outside the Women's Med Center in Kettering on Friday.

Kettering abortion provider helps patients to understand options.

The parking lot of Dayton Women’s Med Center in Kettering was busier than usual Monday as patients inside tried to understand their options now that abortions are banned in Ohio after the detection of a fetal heartbeat — about six weeks into pregnancy.

“Patients are very upset, crying and desperate,” said a representative from Women’s Med, one of the few remaining abortion providers in Ohio. “There is a lot of confusion.”

“Today we saw a patient in Dayton who has cancer. Her doctors told her she would have to terminate before she received chemotherapy treatment. She will have to travel to Indiana. A mom brought her daughter in and doesn’t own a car. She will have to rent one to get her daughter to her appointment in Indianapolis later this week.”

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There were 2,770 induced abortions performed in Montgomery County in 2020, the most recent data available from the Ohio Department of Health. This amounted to 13.4% of the procedures in the state. Statewide, 61.8 percent of the 20,605 induced abortions reported in 2020 were less than nine weeks along.

Women’s Med estimates about one of every 15 of its patients are less than six weeks pregnant. Many women don’t even know they are pregnant that early.

Women’s Med can still screen patients at its Dayton office and then refer them to the Women’s Med facility in Indianapolis for surgery as long as they are less than 13.6 weeks pregnant. Ohio patients can’t be given medication abortion in Indiana, only surgical termination, according to the clinic.

Patients more than 13.6 weeks are being referred to providers in Pittsburgh, Michigan and Illinois.

“We are still treating patients under six weeks with no fetal heartbeat at Dayton Women’s Med,” the representative said. “We will continue this system as long as it is legal however, since the Indiana legislature is having an emergency session on July 6, they will most likely pass an abortion ban at that time.”

As Ohio and other states pass increasingly restrictive laws, options for women decrease and the remaining providers can’t accommodate everyone, the Women’s Med representative said.

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“We hear many providers are already fully booked for three or four weeks. That means someone who is 19 weeks in her pregnancy will not be able to get an abortion at all, even if she is carrying a dead fetus, even if she needs to terminate in order to get chemotherapy, even if she was raped,” the representative said.

The representative from Women’s Med asked not to be named for security reasons.

The Heartbeat Bill went into effect last week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and a court granted a motion from the Ohio Attorney General to lift an injunction on its going into law. Ohio Republicans may reconvene this summer to pass more restrictive anti-abortion legislation.

At a visit to Greene County for the groundbreaking of Great Council State Park on Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine — a staunch abortion opponent — said he “didn’t want to speculate” about what’s next for Ohio’s abortion laws.

DeWine said the state legislature must “look at this and decide what else they want to do.”

“Let’s let the process work, let’s let people have their say,” he said.

Like the Heartbeat Bill, the leading bill under consideration in the Ohio General Assembly does not contain exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Asked at his local visit Monday if rape survivors who became pregnant would be forced to birth their rapist’s offspring, DeWine said, “We’re going to continue to debate this issue, and that is certainly one of the issues that will continue to be debated.”

A complete ban on abortions in Ohio would likely put Women’s Med out of business, the medical practice representative said.

This would be welcome news to Vivian Skovgard. The abortion opponent stood on the sidewalk in front of Women’s Med on Monday attempting to divert people to the pregnancy crisis center across the street that provides resources to encourage women to not get an abortion.

“If this place closes, it doesn’t mean that we close down,” Skovgard said. “We need to do everything we can to help that mother, dad, whoever to save that baby’s life and also make it so that mother doesn’t have to live with that, that she took the life of her child.”