A Post-Roe Guide to Reproductive Health Care in Ohio


Jamie Brian

Roe v. Wade, the 50 year precedent that constitutionally protected abortion, was overturned June 24, 2022. This decision shifted control of abortion rights to the states and left many people with uteruses scrambling to understand a complicated new legal landscape. 


Seven months later, layers of confusion still remain. This guide is intended to help students understand the reproductive health services available to them.


Ohio Post Roe: Where Are We Now?


Senate Bill 23 was activated in Ohio after Roe v. Wade was disbanded. In 2019, Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill that prohibits abortions with a detectable fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks of pregnancy. It was active until October, when Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins issued a preliminary injunction against the so-called “Heartbeat” law. With this temporary hold on Senate Bill 23 in place, abortions are now legal in Ohio up to 21 weeks and six days of pregnancy. 


The shifting nature of abortion law in Ohio has taken its toll on local abortion clinics. 


People seeking an abortion need to schedule an initial appointment and then come back for the surgical abortion procedure or abortion pill 24 hours later. When the heartbeat law was in effect, it limited access to abortion procedures. 


 Dr. David Burkons, owner and medical director of Northeast Ohio Women’s Center, experienced the effects of the heartbeat law firsthand.


 “There were a number of people who didn’t have cardiac activity on their first day of ultrasound, but then they’d come back a day or two days later, and they did and we’d have to turn them away,” Burkons said. “Looking at the different emotions on people’s faces, of fear, of disappointment, of frustration and hopelessness that this engendered was really a very sad thing for us to see.”


Limits on abortion in Ohio also meant more people were forced to seek an abortion in neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, where it was still legal after cardiac activity was detected.


Today, there are six full-service surgical abortion clinics open in Ohio. Three additional clinics provide medication abortion. Medication abortion, or the abortion pill, is available up to 10 weeks after the first day of a patient’s last menstrual period.


However, the fight for abortion rights is far from over.


“One of the problems is that you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future as far as access to abortion goes,” Burkons said. “I think it’s very important for not just college students, but for any woman of reproductive age who is going to be sexually active, to understand what protection means.”


Contraception works, but only if it is used properly.


Choosing The Right Contraception


The DeWeese Health Center at Kent State offers gynecological services, contraception counseling and prescriptions for contraceptives. Health professionals at DeWeese can prescribe birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings and long-lasting hormonal implants. 


Choosing the right form of contraception is a personal choice based on medical history and how often a person wants to take birth control. Long-lasting contraceptive implants can work for three years, but other options like birth control pills must be taken every day.


Different forms of contraception also have varying rates of effectiveness. Contraceptive implants and IUDs are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, whereas birth control pills are 91% effective.


Students can schedule a contraception counseling appointment to discuss what form of contraception is best for them.


“The clinician they would see would get all that information, like what’s their medical history and what’s their family history. Are they interested in the pill or something more long term?” said Dr. Lisa Dannemiller, chief university physician at DeWeese Health Center. 


“That would be where they discuss all of those things like how do you choose and then see what the person is interested in getting or choosing.”


Advocating for Change


Abortion is legal in Ohio for now, but recent challenges in other states have prompted concern about the future of abortion access. 


Later this month, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is expected to arrive at a decision in Texas about whether to reverse FDA approval of mifepristone, a medication prescribed to terminate pregnancies. If the judge rules in favor of the anti-abortion coalition that filed the lawsuit, a nationwide ban on mifepristone could go into effect.


These legal challenges are a source of anxiety for many people with uteruses, but there is still hope for securing reproductive rights. 


“From a personal level, it’s important to make sure that if you’re going to be sexually active you do it safely, as far as contraception goes,” Burkons said. “And on the broader part, if you believe in a woman’s right to choose, you need to become politically active and aware of what’s going on in this regard at the local, state and national levels.”


Find your local political representative here.