Jun 30, 2022 - News

OB-GYNs fear abortion ban will deter doctors from Ohio

Illustration of a doctor's handcuffed hands wearing medical gloves
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ohio has just enough OB-GYNs to meet demand at the moment.

  • But after the state's severe abortion restrictions went into effect last week, doctors fear it could be more difficult to recruit new talent to stave off a shortage as more pregnancies are carried to term.

By the numbers: Ohio had 1,770 women's health care providers in 2018 but needed 1,820, per a 2021 federal analysis.

Driving the news: Ohio doctors who perform abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy, can now be found guilty of a fifth-degree felony.

  • The law allows exceptions to prevent a mother's death or "substantial and irreversible impairment."

What they're saying: "The fear of going to jail is certainly one of the things that will potentially inhibit people from wanting to come to the state," David Hackney, chair of the Ohio section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, tells Axios.

  • "But probably the biggest driver is having to watch your patients suffer when you know there are ways in which you could give them the care they need."

For example, the law makes no exceptions for fatal defects such as anencephaly, when a fetus is missing parts of the brain and skull.

  • "It's one of the things I'm dreading the most … having to break this horrible news to patients," Hackney says. "It's an unequivocal nightmare: going through an entire pregnancy to term against their will for a fetus that is going to die."

Between the lines: Medical residencies are one of the most reliable pipelines for states to recruit doctors, as most physicians stay where they trained.

  • Ohio OB-GYN students who support abortion rights will now have limited opportunities to train and likely need to travel to fulfill educational requirements, a potential deterrent, physicians warn.

What we're watching: Lawmakers are poised to pursue a ban that outlaws abortion from the moment of conception when they reconvene this fall.

Meanwhile, Ohio's abortion providers filed a lawsuit Wednesday to block the current ban.

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