Logan Moore

Limited Access


The complexity of women’s health care in Ohio

Logan Moore / Asst. News Editor

For students who might have experienced a shortage of women’s health services in Athens, there could be a reason.

The relationship between party affiliation, socioeconomic status and religion heavily influence access to services like birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing and abortions.

Abortion clinics in Ohio, 2018



Within the past two years, Ohio has widely become known by voters as a conservative state that has tried to pass multiple legislation bills prohibiting abortion.

On Nov. 15, the Ohio House of Representatives approved an “anti-abortion” heartbeat bill.

The bill, which was passed 58-35 in the Ohio House of Representatives, was originally introduced in March 2015. The legislation seeks to ban abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected. It does not provide exceptions of rape or incest.

Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar bill two years ago, saying at the time it was inconsistent to previous Supreme Court rulings.

Although the bill will move to the Ohio Senate for a vote, a recent article suggests Kasich will veto it again.

There are other bills, however, that have influenced pro-choice advocates.

House Bill 234 is one of those bills that will create measures prohibiting violations against reproductive health centers, such as obstructing or blocking the entrance to a facility and following and harassing a patient within 15 feet of the premises of a reproductive health care facility.

Sophia Cobb, a freshman studying public health, volunteered as a Planned Parenthood educator for more than a year and traveled back and forth from Athens to Cleveland to teach teenagers from ages 15 to 19 about birth control and STD testing.

“We were instructed on most things to talk about sex education to prevent abortion and the need for abortions,” Cobb said. “This is a very narrow view of what Planned Parenthood does.”

Although she can’t speak on the organization’s behalf, Cobb also said abortions were rarely talked about during her time at Planned Parenthood.



“It was almost like we were taught to discredit abortions,” Cobb said. “As a group, we really had to be careful about the organization's reputation.”

That is possibly because of the organization's relationship with the federal government, Cobb said. Most of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding comes from Medicaid reimbursements for preventative care and some funding from Title X, a federal family planning program originally enacted by President Richard Nixon in 1970.

Also while working at Planned Parenthood, Cobb said educators had to be specific on the various types of birth control available and their differences when educating teens.

Geographical influences

Socioeconomic status and geographical location also play a role in access to health care, Cobb said.

When she attended the Planned Parenthood convention last year, women were separated into groups based on race, she said.

“They stress intersectionality, but it was really interesting that they separated us,” Cobb said.

In Athens, there is limited access to women’s health care. Ohio University does not have an on-campus gynecologist, but the providers at Hudson Health Center, located at 2 Health Center Drive, can assess acute gynecological problems such as urinary tract infections. If a patient needs specialized care, they will be referred to an external specialist, according to its website. Often times, women are referred to other hospitals for assistance.

At OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital in Athens, health care providers receive specialized education and fulfill clinical requirements to perform forensic exams for victims of sexual assault, Keely Stockwell, OhioHeath marketing and communication manager, said in an email.

“Both (sexual assault nurse examiners) and (sexual assault forensic examiners) are trained nurses (who) are on the staff of OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital and available 24 hours a day,” Stockwell said in an email.

According to the Athens’ Planned Parenthood’s website, the facility doesn’t provide abortion services, but it makes referrals to other locations that can.

While the center does not provide abortions, it is used to treat many other women’s health services including STD testing.

Both Planned Parenthoods in Athens and Columbus were unable to give a comment, but some students wish more services were available.


Some of that lack of services for women’s health could be influenced in the region by different religious organizations.

According to Pew Research Center, some major religious groups against abortion include Mormonism and Evangelicalism, and some Catholics. About 47 percent of Catholics think abortion should be illegal.

In Ohio, 73 percent of the population is Christian and of that 73 percent, 18 percent are Catholic. In Athens, 20.3 percent of residents are religious and 3 percent of those people are Catholic.

How important is religion in Ohio?


“Pregnancy Decision Health Centers has promoted life and healthy pregnancy outcomes in central Ohio since 1981,” Julie Moore, president of Pregnancy Decision Health Center, said. “Women deserve to have all the support they need during and after pregnancy.” Pregnancy Decision Health Center is an interdenominational, faith-based organization committed to breaking down the barriers that cause women to view abortion as their only option.

She also said most of the religious organization’s funding is private. Groups often receive donations from supporters.

Some religious groups, however, do not have a defined stance on abortion, such as the United Methodist Church. According to its website, the church wants its members to be knowledgeable and caring about current issues.

“Everyone deserves to believe in what they believe in,” Cobb said. “I don’t think religion has anything to do with government, and I want a Catholic woman to do what she wants with her body just as much as a Muslim or an Atheist.”

Marsha Ball, a volunteer for Birthright of Columbus, a pro-life interdenominational organization, said the organization has open arms and open hearts to women who are contemplating keeping a child.

Often times, young women ages 20 to 30 enter the center and are unsure whether or not pregnancy is the right option for them, Ball said. Birthright of Columbus remains pro-life even though the founder was neutral in abortion.

Ball explained the first thing volunteers do is ask about the woman’s life situation and how she got to this point.

“You know, possibly work (her) to the point where you could realize that what you're doing and having the baby is still doable,” Ball said.

Ball said her organization not only cares about saving the fetus, but the mothers’ mental health. Statistics show a woman is more likely suffer from alcoholism, drug use or depression, Ball said.

Both Cobb and Ball represent the many different viewpoints regarding women’s health.

Ball compared her wishes for Americans’ views on women’s health to an anecdote that her grandfather once told her.

“When I was younger, my grandpa told me he doesn’t believe in the gay pride flag,” Cobb said. “He said part of being an American, is that I have the right to not fly that flag on my property, but I would die for the right for you to fly that flag, and that’s something that has really stuck with me.”

Abortion clinics, 2014


“I think that’s a part of America we have lost,” she said.

Although many disagree about methods regarding women’s health care and reproductive rights, one thing is clear — legislation surrounding the controversial topic is going to change.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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