These days the headlines are popping off as a brilliant array of colorful candidates seek to capitalize on the whims of voters, penning statements and attempting to frame their records as the winds of the primary season howl around them. Ohio governor John Kasich is no exception, attempting to walk the tightrope between appealing to the Republican Party’s increasingly conservative and evangelical base without losing the mass of undecided and Independent voters any Republican candidate will need to hold up in the general election.
While Governor Kasich likes to point to his record on healthcare as a sign of his unifying ability — don’t you know he Did the Right Thing and expanded Medicaid? — his tenure in Columbus has been marked by consistent and persistent attacks on women’s health.
“Don’t be fooled- John Kasich is no moderate” cries a Planned Parenthood press release.
“John Kasich is no moderate when it comes to abortion rights,” The Nation alerts its readers.
Mother Jones tells us “How Ohio. Gov. John Kasich is Making Life Hell for Women Seeking Abortions.”
They aren’t exaggerating. As an admitted news junkie myself, I spent this summer at home with my family, and each morning I would sit and peruse the Toledo Blade, my local paper, while eating breakfast. What I read was shocking.
In 2013 the state of Ohio began requiring abortion providers to acquire “transfer-agreements” with local hospitals in case of an emergency. Kasich billed it as a measure to protect women’s health and safety despite the fact that hospitals already are required by law to admit emergency cases. The law’s intended effect, of course, has very little to do with women’s health, as surgical abortion in a medical facility is a safe and routine outpatient procedure.
Following the passage of the transfer agreement legislation, state lawmakers slipped provisions into a budget bill (which Kasich signed) that forbid state-funded hospitals and clinics from entering into such transfer agreements. Measures that became enforceable on December 1, 2015 also included restricting insurance coverage for pregnancy terminating procedures to cases of life endangerment, rape or incest — not only for public employees, but for any health plan offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the bill requires a medically unnecessary ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat, driving up costs. Indeed, the true impact of these laws has been just as lawmakers hoped: since the bill passed, five of Ohio’s 14 surgical abortion-providing clinics have closed.
The status of abortion access in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio serves as an excellent case study. After the passing of the 2013 law, Capital Care Network became the only abortion clinic in a metropolitan area of roughly one million people. As is the case throughout the state, Catholic-affiliated hospitals make up a large percentage of the private healthcare sector, thus forcing Capital Care Network to enter into an agreement with the University of Michigan hospital system, following rejection at other local hospitals and certainly under pressure from anti-abortion groups.
Kasich’s administration then argued that the UM hospital, roughly 50 miles from Toledo, was too far away, prompting the state Senate attempted to pass a budgetary line limiting the maximum distance for such transfer agreements to 30 miles. As the Toledo Blade editorial page explained, “The Senate added these rules to the budget without debate or public input, because lawmakers know most Ohioans don’t support such Draconian restrictions on abortion.”
To recap: John Kasich imposed a medically unnecessary requirement on Ohio’s abortion providers, which he then used as a tool to effectively outlaw surgical abortion clinics in all but a select few geographic areas in the state.
What’s happening regarding abortion access and women’s health issues in my hometown of Toledo is even more baffling when compared to the existing regulations in my current place of residence, Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Ankara has a population of roughly 4.6 million, whereas the population of the state of Ohio is about 18 million. In the entire state of Ohio there are currently 9 abortion providers. In the city of Ankara alone, there are 129. By a simple per-capita measure, that makes it 56 times more difficult to find an abortion clinic in Ohio than it is in Ankara.
As a native Ohioan who faces constant questioning about my experience as a non-Muslim American woman living here in Turkey, I cite this statistic not only because it’s a useful example to counter the assumptions the average American has about women and the Middle East, but also because it is a telling example of just how regressive policies affecting women are under John Kasich, and in the United States more generally. To be clear, Turkey’s regulations regarding abortion access are far from perfect, but it is telling that in a country notorious for its conservative leadership, abortion access remains far more attainable for the average woman here than in the state of Ohio under John Kasich.
Since taking office in 2011, Kasich has signed into law no less than 11 provisions that restrict a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In so doing, not only has Kasich risked violating the U.S. Constitution (his restrictions are being challenged in court as I write), his policies fly in the face of the United Nations recent affirmation of abortion as a human right. Not insignificantly, Kasich’s actions to restrict abortion access have also run afoul of public opinion.
Despite campaign platitudes to moderation, John Kasich’s record is abundantly clear. When it comes to safe, legal (let alone affordable) access to medical procedures, Kasich’s stance is anything but moderate.