COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pro-reproductive healthcare physicians are utilizing a recent Ohio law to make abortion access easier for patients.
Ohio shares an agreement that any physician licensed in 35 other states can provide care to member-state patients. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLCC), which the state officially joined in the summer of 2021, streamlines the licensing process for doctors who want to practice in multiple states.
"That makes it easier for the provider to potentially get licensed in another state and go over there and provide those services in that state," said Bethany Corbin, a healthcare attorney.
With Ohio's newly-implemented six-week abortion ban, and even more restrictions on the horizon, Corbin said the medical compact is being evaluated as a tool for abortion-seekers. But just like most doctor visits, an established relationship and your location is needed to get medication.
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"That provider licensed in that jurisdiction can provide care to that patient who is temporarily in that jurisdiction," she added. "What really matters is the patient's actual physical location when the care is being provided."
Ohio has once again made national news after a 10-year-old rape victim who was six weeks and three days pregnant was forced to travel to Indiana to get an abortion, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
For an Ohioan who may be just past the 6-week deadline, like this child, they can travel to get an abortion pill either in-person or through telemedicine.
"Some states actually do not allow teleprescribing of the abortion pill," she said. "That could even be right in states that haven't banned abortion, but they may require instead an in-person visit rather than a telemedicine visit."
Nearly 20 states don't allow for abortion pill teleprescription, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. That number may change, according to NPR.
An Ohio patient would still need to travel to another state, like Illinois, to get prescribed the pill. This type of self-managed medication abortion has a two-pill process.
The abortion pill is an FDA-approved method that is safe and effective for those who are an early abortion up to 10 weeks in pregnancy, according to the FDA. There are two steps in the process. First, the individual seeking the abortion would take mifepristone. This medicine stops the pregnancy from growing, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The next medicine is misoprostol, which will expel the embryo.
The majority of abortions are done with medication within the first 10-12 weeks of pregnancy, according to research group Guttmacher Institute. About 90% of all abortions happen within the first trimester, putting to rest the age-old argument that people are having abortions at 9 months, the non-governmental organization, said. The rest typically happen early in the second trimester, about 13-15 weeks.
"The individual would have to stay in Illinois and take both pills there because if she returned to Ohio, she's actually committing the abortion in Ohio," Corbin added.
This doesn’t mean that an Ohioan can just call a physician who participates in the compact and get the pill — but the lawyer said it would make it easier to get care, once you have the transportation to travel.
This is not to say that travel for abortion is easy, accessible or even available. The compact just makes the process a bit easier for patients and providers, according to the attorney.
For example, a Cleveland doctor could also be licensed, or apply through the expedited process, in Illinois through the compact. This doctor can set up shop in an abortion-friendly state and continue caring for their Ohio-based clients through telehealth. Since the physician already knows their patient, the process for getting the pills could be much more efficient.
The state doesn’t currently have a ban from traveling to get an abortion, but some Republican lawmakers have been considering the idea. Cincinnati-area Rep. Jean Schmidt told a conservative radio show that companies paying for out-of-state travel could be seen as “promoting abortion.”
"What we're also starting to see are providers who might be in more abortion-restrictive states actually kind of moving over and trying to start helping and setting up in these clinics where they might be expecting a large influx of individuals coming from states where abortion is banned," Corbin said. "I've started to see some of those trends, too, among providers who really want to help."
The compact said that each state has the right to decide what goes on within its borders, but people going outside the state need to be seeing a physician that is part of the compact, but also is licensed and located in the visiting state.
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