Both sides point to Heartbeat Law’s impact last year in arguing their side in Issue 1 debate

Montgomery County saw 7.7% decline in 2022.

For approximately 11 weeks following the end of Roe v. Wade, Ohio was under a six-week abortion ban in 2022, likely contributing to the 15% decline the state saw for abortions last year.

“It forced me to abandon my patients,” Dr. Catherine Romanos, a family medicine doctor at the Women’s Med Center of Dayton, said about the Heartbeat Law going into effect last year.

A total of 18,488 induced pregnancy terminations were reported in Ohio for 2022, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s newly released data, including 17,201 obtained by Ohio resident women (93%).

By comparison, a total of 21,813 induced pregnancy terminations were reported in Ohio in 2021, including 20,716 obtained by Ohio resident women (95%).

“It’s proof positive that common sense, pro-life initiatives work,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. He also referenced Gov. Mike DeWine’s Bold Beginning initiative, aimed at young families.

“It’s historically one of the largest drops year-to-year of the number of abortions in our state history and it’s no coincidence that (Heartbeat Law) is one of the main culprits,” he said.

Credit: Sweigart, Joshua (COP-Dayton)

Credit: Sweigart, Joshua (COP-Dayton)

As Ohioans prepare to vote in November on whether to enshrine abortion and other reproductive rights into the state constitution in Issue 1, both sides point to the experience from last year to bolster their argument.

Roe v. Wade overturned

Once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, a previous injunction on Ohio’s Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act, or the Heartbeat Bill, was lifted. Gov. Mike DeWine had previously signed the Heartbeat Bill in April 2019, but a preliminary injunction prevented state officials from enforcing it until last year. The law bans abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy.

The impact of the law meant the people who would have been patients at the Women’s Med Center either were not able to receive abortion care or they had to travel out of state, Romanos said.



Women’s Med Center, which is located in Kettering and one of only two abortion clinics in Southwest Ohio, stopped providing abortions when the Heartbeat Law took effect. The center sent patients to an affiliated facility in Indianapolis and almost closed entirely last year until a court suspended the Heartbeat Law after approximately 11 weeks.

The Ohio Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case, and could reinstate the Heartbeat Law. The court is split four Republican judges and three Democrats.

“Last year, Ohioans saw the devastating consequences of one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country that has no exceptions for rape or incest,” said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, spokesperson for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights. “Some patients were forced to leave Ohio to get the care they needed and others were forced to endure extreme and traumatic health conditions, even losing liters of blood before receiving care. No one should ever have their health deteriorate or need to flee their state to get care for themselves or a loved one.”

Credit: Sweigart, Joshua (COP-Dayton)

Credit: Sweigart, Joshua (COP-Dayton)

The Women’s Med Center of Dayton had been preparing for the Supreme Court’s decision and the Heartbeat Law to come back, but Romanos was still surprised by how quickly it happened.

“We didn’t know how quickly Ohio would act. We thought we had a couple weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision came out before Ohio would act, and so that was really shocking,” Romanos said. “What I learned is that no matter how much you prepare for something, you can’t prevent the grief from feeling just as horrible.”

‘That saved a lot of babies’

Others welcomed the Heartbeat Law, including Vivian Skovgard of Kettering, who visits the Women’s Med Center daily to talk to patients outside. Skovgard said she also offers prayers.

“We wanted to see that go through,” Skovgard said about the Supreme Court decision. “That saved a lot of babies, so of course we were for that decision.”

Then the preliminary injunction was put in place on the Heartbeat Law.

“We were saddened by that,” Skovgard said. “We’re here to try and save babies and help moms.”

Abortion foes like her are hoping the Heartbeat Law returns and Issue 1 fails.

“Tragically, there were still 18,000 abortions in Ohio last year,” Gonidakis said. “We’re not celebrating. We’re blessed and fortunate that the numbers went down so sharply, but there were still 18,000 abortions in Ohio.”

Local figures from 2022

The vast majority of reported abortions in 2022 were obtained in six major metropolitan areas of Ohio in the counties of Cuyahoga (29.9%), Montgomery (17.3%), Hamilton (16.9%), Summit (15.2%), Franklin (14.9%), and Lucas (5.8%), according to ODH.

“Clearly, Montgomery County has become a major abortion hub for Southwest Ohio,” said Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life. “Over 60 babies are killed by ‘choice’ every week in our community. The loss of these children is tragic for their families and detrimental to our society as a whole. The passage of Issue 1 will increase these numbers substantially and Ohio’s women and children will be at even greater risk.”

Pregnancy care centers in the Dayton region, including Women’s Centers of Ohio and Elizabeth’s New Life Center, declined to comment for this story, referring back to Dayton Right to Life.

There were 3,191 induced abortions performed in Montgomery County in 2022, a 7.7% decrease from 3,458 abortions performed in the county in 2021. In 2021, Montgomery County saw a 24% increase in abortions from 2020, according to previous ODH reports.

When taking county residence into account, there were 1,111 Montgomery County residents who received abortions in 2022, along with 469 from Butler County, 200 from Clark County, 172 from Greene County, 161 from Warren County, 81 from Miami County, 28 from Champaign County, 21 from Shelby County, 19 from Preble County, and 17 from Darke County.

Roughly two-thirds of all induced abortions in 2022 involved pregnancies of less than nine weeks (66.5%), with approximately 22.5% involving pregnancies of nine to 12 weeks.

There were 342 abortions in 2022 involving pregnancies of 19 or more completed weeks of gestation, which is a decrease from the 486 reported in 2021.

Looking ahead

“Since the ban has been blocked and we’ve been seeing patients again, I’ve been seeing patients from Texas, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, you name it,” Romanos said.

The center is also fielding more patients from Indiana since that state has had a near-total ban on abortion since Aug. 21. They have been trying to accommodate those patients, Romanos said, but it has been difficult.

On Nov. 7, Ohio voters will be considering an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would ensure access to abortion until fetal viability. In between now and the election, though, providers are feeling the pressure of what the outcome of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision will be.

“This couple of months has been worse, like just this low level, buzzing of nervousness,” Romanos said. “It makes patients exhausted. It makes the staff exhausted. You shouldn’t have to feel like that when you go to the doctor’s office.”

Restrictive laws on abortion may also drive doctors away from a state that is already facing a maternal and infant mortality crisis, Romanos said.

“If we ban evidence-based medicine, we will lose doctors who already practice here. We will not attract new doctors,” Romanos said. “So this is not just about having access to abortion. It’s about creating an environment where health care practitioners can provide the highest level of care possible, and if people feel like they are going to be criminalized for providing care, they’re not going to come here.”

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