St. Joseph County Board of Health Opposes Abortion Ordinance

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The St. Joseph County Board of Health has come out against a proposed abortion ordinance that could come up for a vote as early as today.

In a letter to the County Council, the Board of Health took issue with both the process behind the ordinance and with the content. The Board says that they learned through a media report in the South Bend Tribune that the Health Department would be tasked with enforcing the regulations contained in the ordinance.

The ordinance would require admitting privileges at a local hospital for abortion providers. The proposal goes beyond existing Indiana law, requiring either a provider to have admitting privileges at a local hospital or an agreement with a physician who has admitting privileges. That law became effective in 2014.

While proponents of the ordinance say it would improve safety for women, the Board of Health writes that such conclusions are not substantiated.

“The primary lack of support is based on the bill’s lack of clarity defining any public health valued proposition for the citizens of St. Joseph County,” the Board writes. “There is generally no support from the medical community for this ordinance. Nor, has there been presented any demonstrable, factual statistical data stating a need for these measures.”

The Board of Health says that the focus of the proposed ordinance “appears to be on addressing a societal issue” rather than a health issue.

“In order for societal issues to receive stature in public policy, they must generate high merit, evidence of need and broad based community support,” they write. “This ordinance does not meet any of those standards.”

The Board’s letter was signed by Board President Michael Harding, as well as the other six members. The letter then has an attached fact sheet noting that abortion procedures are already extremely safe.

“Legal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion,” write Drs. Elizabeth G. Raymond and David A. Grimes in a paper published on the National Institute of Health website.

Opposition from the medical community is hardly the only obstacle for the ordinance’s proponents.

As we reported in November, similar laws have been passed throughout the United States in recent years. A federal district court struck down Alabama’s admitting privileges law as unconstitutional, while a federal appeals court struck down an admitting privileges law in Mississippi.

If St. Joseph County were to pass the measure, it would almost certainly spark a costly legal challenge. The ordinance would effectively ban abortion in the county — at least temporarily. The only current provider does not meet the proposed requirement.

Image Credit: Alex Proimos, flickr

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