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Cincinnati to reimburse city workers for the cost of traveling to get an abortion

Aftab Pureval abortion policy announcement
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval announced new legislation and policies related to abortion on June 27, 2022.

Cincinnati leaders plan to reimburse city workers for the cost of traveling to get an abortion, and officials have plans for other ways to make abortion access easier.

Ohio’s six-week abortion ban took effect Friday, just hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Mayor Aftab Pureval says the forthcoming travel reimbursement policy will apply to coverage not available within 150 miles.

“[The policy] will not only cover travel for abortion-related services," Pureval said. “This is about helping to make sure our city employees have access to any eligible medical care that isn't available here, regardless of future statewide laws.”

That could include access to certain birth control like IUDs, in vitro fertilization treatment, and gender-affirming care for transgender Ohioans. The reimbursement will be available to any covered employee and anyone on the city's insurance plan.

Dozens of companies have announced similar polices over the last few days, including: Kroger, Disney, Paramount and Netflix. Many more announced a travel reimbursement policy last month, after a draft opinion of the Roe v. Wade decision was leaked, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Starbucks.

Some legal experts say such policies open companies up to potential lawsuits; in fact, a group of Republican lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Lyft and Citigroup with legal action over their policies.

Pureval says he’s also asked the administration to prepare a report within 30 days outlining opportunities for the city to decriminalize abortion.

“I've also asked the administration to prioritize police resources to protect the health and safety of women and medical care providers,” Pureval said. “I do not believe it is a good use of law enforcement resources to investigate and prosecute doctors and women who are engaged in personal health care decisions.”

Cincinnati Right to Life Executive Director Laura Strietmann said Monday their lawyers will review the policies as they consider legal action.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters released the following statement Monday afternoon:

"I was elected to enforce the laws of the State of Ohio. I took an oath that I would do just that," Deters wrote. "I have repeatedly stated it is dangerous when prosecutors pick and choose what laws they want to enforce. When prosecutors do not follow their oath, it will promote lawlessness and challenge the basic structures of separation of powers."

Repealing a city ordinance on abortion

Lastly, Council is expected to vote this week to repeal a 2001 ordinance that prevents the insurance plan for many city employees from covering “voluntary” abortion.

That ordinance was passed in September 2001, “in an effort to promote childbirth over abortion.” The ordinance required the city to maintain insurance coverage for abortions “which are deemed medically necessary to prevent endangerment of the life of the mother.” It passed 6-2 ('A' means absent).

The Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved the repeal Monday afternoon; a full council vote will take place Wednesday. Then, Interim City Manager John Curp will update the city’s health plans to include coverage of elective abortions.

About 1,600 of the city's 6,000 employees are covered by AFSCME and have had coverage for elective abortions since 2003, after the union filed a grievance.

A few council members filed a motion in early 2004 asking the administration to exclude elective abortion coverage from future union contract negotiations; the motion failed 6-3.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.