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Op-ed: Ohio 20-week abortion ban will have 'life-altering consequences,' disproportionately affect low-income women

An Ohio law (SB 127) that will ban abortion care at 20 weeks of pregnancy "will have life-altering consequences for many families and women, some of whom are seeking abortion for serious health threats," Ushma Upadhyay, an associate professor at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health Program at the University of California-San Francisco, writes in an opinion piece for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Citing the "dramatic increase" in abortion restrictions in U.S. states since 2011, Upadhyay discusses her role leading "a research team that evaluates the effects of these state-level abortion restrictions on women's lives in Ohio and other states." She explains that her work has shown that "every woman's pregnancy is unique," but "[f]or women who make the personal decision to seek an abortion, state restrictions lead to multiple financial and logistical challenges."

According to Upadhyay, "Ohio's 20-week ban will make it more challenging for women to obtain a wanted abortion and will likely increase the number of women carrying [unintended] pregnancies to term."

Citing data from the Turnaway study, Upadhyay writes that U.S. abortion clinics in 2008 "were already turning away more than 4,000 women seeking wanted abortions each year because they had surpassed state or provider gestational limits, like Ohio's 20-week ban."

She adds, "Among women turned away, the most common reasons for showing up at an abortion facility beyond the gestational limit were delay in recognizing pregnancy, and time needed to raise money to pay for travel and the procedure." Currently, according to Upadhyay, "at least 16 states" impose 20-week abortion bans, including Ohio.

Noting that abortion care in the United States becomes costlier later in pregnancy, Upadhyay writes that "[o]nce a woman is beyond the first trimester, raising the funds to pay for an abortion can create obstacles and lead to further delays, creating a cycle of increasing cost and delay." She explains, "As a result, gestational limits not only impose obstacles to women seeking abortions, but also completely eliminate abortion as a real option to many of those women."

Further, according to Upadhyay, "Women seeking abortions are more likely to be low-income." She explains that currently in the United States, 33 states do not provide Medicaid coverage for most abortion care. "Laws that impose lower and lower gestational limits will disproportionately affect women already facing complicated financial circumstances," she writes.

Upadhyay asserts, "Ohio's state legislators have unabashedly set out to stop women from having the abortions they seek, having introduced 20 abortion-restricting provisions since 2011." She adds that these efforts, according to antiabortion-rights state legislators, are "emboldened" by the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

Upadhyay writes, "When gestation bans are passed, it is usually low-income women who bear the burden, perpetuating inequalities in access to health care." She concludes, "Science and medicine should be guiding laws that regulate abortion. Throughout a woman's life, her health should drive important medical decisions like abortion, not politics" (Upadhyay, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/19).