The war on women is alive and well in Toledo, Ohio. For years there have only been two abortion clinics in the city: the Center for Choice and Capital Care Network. But long-held state legislation requiring transfer agreements with local hospitals recently forced the number down to one. The Center for Choice closed in June.
The Center for Choice was deeply rooted in Toledo’s reproductive rights history. Carol Dunn opened the center in 1983, inspired by her work at Toledo Medical Services, the city’s first abortion clinic. The Center for Choice has endured three relocations and numerous violent protests and bombings. Anti-choice activists once blocked the clinic’s doors for over ten hours.
Ohio’s abortion landscape is troubling. Gov. John Kasich (R) recently signed a budget bill that Right to Life deemed “the most pro-life budget in Ohio’s history.” The new bill contains sections that prohibit clinics from signing transfer agreements with public hospitals, and requires that doctors perform ultrasounds to detect a fetal heartbeat before performing abortions. Kasich reevaluated several sections of the budget before signing it, even demanding an exemption for spider monkeys from a dangerous animal law, claiming their inclusion was “an unjustified step backward.” Yet all of the dangerous abortion restrictions remained perfectly intact.
Capital Care Network is currently the only operating abortion clinic in the Toledo area – and its future is far from secure. All three hospitals in Toledo refused to sign transfer agreements – which would have prevented the Center for Choice from closing in June — with ProMedica Toledo Hospital releasing a statement saying it didn’t want to be “put into a position of choosing a political position that is only divisive and polarizing.” Other Toledo hospitals will probably take a similar stance with Capital Care Network.
This is representative of a larger problem in the fight for women’s rights. Too many potential allies stay neutral to avoid the political fuss, while disadvantaged women in conservative states are denied the rights they’ve been guaranteed since 1973. Unless Capital Care Network finds a way around Ohio’s restrictions, Toledo will become the largest city in Ohio without a clinic.
I recently spoke with Anita Rios, president of the Toledo chapter of NOW. Rios worked at the Center for Choice before its closure. She said the following of Ohio’s politicians: “They’ve seen how effective it is to go after these nitpicky things. It’s hard to fight back on something so obscure.” Toledo NOW has two goals when it comes to abortion rights: increase access and change state legislature.
Partnering with Planned Parenthood, ACLU and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Toledo NOW has garnered significant support from the community. “We have a lot of people who are disgusted and want to push back. If you are on our side, the time is now to stand with us. These leaders don’t define the community. I could say I’m disappointed with them, but what does that do? I’m not looking for who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. I’m looking for solutions.”
Ohio’s new anti-choice budget bill was signed late into the night on a Sunday. A photograph captured Gov. John Kasich surrounded by white male legislators. Until we’re granted voices, how can we expect to find solutions? Similar abortion battles are going on in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, whose Governor, Rick Perry (R), recently said of the activists protesting in his state’s legislature, “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done.” Numerous conservative politicians have even compared pro-choice activists to terrorists. But here is what they don’t understand: We are not represented. We have to scream in order to be heard. And we will be heard.