Columbus — As some members of the Ohio legislature take a new look at how the state’s policies disproportionally impacts communities of color, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation is proud to release our new State of Choice In Ohio report. The full report is available at https://prochoiceohio.org/state-choice-2020/

Coordinating this study, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Research & Program Manager Ashley Underwood, MPH noted: “Connecting the disparities we found in the report and the disparities being seen in COVID treatment, it is clear that racism is a threat to public health, particularly to Black Ohioans. The legal right to bodily autonomy is meaningless without the ability to make choices that affect a person’s reproductive health outcomes.”

She continued: “Income and educational attainment can improve reproductive health outcomes for whites and some non-white ethic groups. However, these are not protective factors for Black women, who continue to experience more problems with pregnancy, healthy delivery, and a healthy first year of baby’s life. Nonetheless, it is important to closely examine the economic reality of Black Ohioans, since income status gives insight into people’s quality of life.”

Based on the findings in this report, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation offers three recommendations for improving the state of choice in Ohio:

The state of Ohio must adopt a data-driven approach to state reproductive health care policies. Ohio has positioned itself as a national frontrunner for passing restrictive abortion policies, having abominable infant mortality rates, woefully inadequate funding for the child welfare system, and incarcerating women at a rate higher than the national average. Instead of basing policy decisions on data and research, Ohio legislators advance biased policies that placate their political base. Data-driven policy would be a step in creating an Ohio in which reproductive health disparities are addressed and eradicated, policy-making is transparent and comprehensive, and state funding is used responsibly towards solving problems and creating real-time solutions.

The state of Ohio must invest in research to clarify the relationship between dollars spent and changes in health outcomes in the state. It is difficult to measure the true impact of reproductive health policy without adequate data collection procedures in place. For several topics, data was not collected for every race and ethnicity, or data was voluntarily submitted, or datasets were completely restructured from year to year, which makes comparing and drawing conclusions extremely difficult, if not totally impossible. Because public health outcomes are so closely tied to public spending, there must be in-depth research conducted on the relationship between dollars spent and changes in health outcomes in the state. This is necessary to better understand how government funding has both contributed to the current state of choice, and is also necessary to forge funding streams that improve reproductive health outcomes for all Ohioans.

Finally, the state of Ohio must honor the reproductive autonomy of every Ohioan. Restrictive anti-choice legislation that closes clinics, censors medical providers and incites abortion stigma creates a climate in which accessing abortion is unnecessarily difficult, costly and stressful. Everybody deserves the right to the medical treatment they deem best for their body. Medical decisions should be informed by the recipient and their chosen provider, not by policymakers far removed from the lived reality of their constituents. Ohioans deserve to live in a state that honors their reproductive autonomy.

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