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Cincinnati Developing New Policies to Support City Employees Seeking Abortion, Other Healthcare | Cincinnati News | Cincinnati

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Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval announces legislation that would protect and support city employees seeking abortion and other health services on June 27, 2022.

Editor’s note: Some of the people quoted in this feature frame their abortion language around “women,” meaning a sex assigned at birth. But transgender men, intersex individuals, non-binary individuals and agender individuals also receive abortion care. CityBeat will continue to explore abortion issues that affect all individuals in future stories.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 reversal of the privacy and bodily autonomy that Roe v. Wade had granted for nearly 50 years, Cincinnati officials are developing new policies to support employees who seek abortions and other healthcare.

During a June 27 press conference in front of Cincinnati City Hall, mayor Aftab Pureval announced that interim city manager John Curp is advancing a change in the city’s health plan and human resource policies that would protect employees seeking healthcare and would reimburse employees for out-of-state travel costs related to those procedures. During the address, Pureval repeatedly and specifically mentioned women’s healthcare such as abortion, but he, Curp and other council members also alluded to and sometimes specifically mentioned protecting all healthcare, including gender-affirming care. CityBeat has requested clarification and comment from the mayor’s office.

“Our Supreme Court, Congress, our governor, state legislature – they have all failed us,” Pureval said. “It is not my job to make it easier for the state legislature and the governor to drag women in Ohio back to the ’50s and strip their rights. It’s my job to make that harder.”

Pureval said that he is introducing legislation that would repeal a 2001 ordinance that restricts the city from covering elective abortions in its health plan. The legislation will be brought up in the budget and finance committee meeting Monday, and the full Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote on the on it during the June 29 meeting, he said. If it passes, Curp will amend Cincinnati’s healthcare coverage to include abortion services. 

Curp also will introduce “a comprehensive travel reimbursement policy,” Pureval said. Under the new policy, employees would receive reimbursement for travel for healthcare if that care is not covered under the city’s health plan and is unavailable or restricted within 150 miles of Cincinnati.  After the reversal of Roe on June 24, Ohio banned abortion after six weeks gestation except in a handful of circumstances. There are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, and doctors performing abortions can be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

Pureval noted that the city’s reimbursement plan for what he says is reproductive healthcare would be similar to those of Cincinnati-based Kroger and other corporations. Curp added that the policy will cover abortion, birth control options, in vitro fertilization and care for transgender individuals and that the cost to the city would be similar to policies elsewhere.

“I also want to be clear that the city’s travel reimbursement policy will not only cover travel for abortion-related services. 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,” Pureval said.


Pureval also said he’s asked city administration to provide a report within 30 days with ways the city can decriminalize abortions as Ohio and other states begin to further restrict or even entirely outlaw abortion care. He said that he has instructed the Cincinnati Police Department not to pursue residents who seek abortions or health providers like doctors and nurses who perform abortion-related care.
“We are relying on our administration and our legal department to provide us with the best possible advice to take actions that are protected from overreach by the state legislature. But as we’ve seen with other issues come before City Hall, this state legislature, despite its commitment to local power, has overreached again and again,” Pureval said. “We anticipate that they will do everything they can to disrupt our effort, but that will not deter us from fighting as hard as we can to protect the women in our communities.”

Cincinnati leaders speak out against Roe v. Wade reversal

As many of them did on June 24 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Cincinnati City Council members lambasted the court’s decision and feared what it could mean in the months and years ahead.

“Back in the 1800s, abortions were legal for white women. They were not legal for enslaved women because enslaved women were considered property,” said Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, vice mayor. “But we grew up in a different America. We grew up in an America where the fundamental right to liberty wasn’t just for straight white men. Liberty means that we own our own bodies.”

“Personal testimony here: I’ve known people who have gotten abortions. I personally have had to make that choice in my life, too. And, so, I know the power of what choosing means,” Cincinnati City Council member Meeka Owens said.

Victoria Parks, pro tem president of the council, had especially strong words for the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that in her lifetime, the legislation around civil rights, Title IX and abortion have affected her the most.

“I’m really not that old, but the right for women to make a choice about their own bodies happened in my life[time], and I grieve – I grieve – that this Supreme Court has the audacity to try to interfere in a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do. They don’t care about rape. They don’t care about the health of the woman,” Parks said. “Within my power, everything that I can do, I will fight against this kind of tyranny.”

Kearney added thoughts about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas overturning Roe and calling for reviews of other recent court-granted rights.

“I am ashamed of our U.S. Supreme Court. I am especially ashamed of Justice Clarence Thomas and his concurring opinion, and I hope everyone has read it. He said, ‘We haven’t gone far enough in Roe v. Wade; we need to take away other liberties that are fundamental rights. Let’s look at Griswold and take away the right for married couples to have contraceptives. Let’s look at Lawrence and take away that right to have privacy between consenting adults. Let’s look at Obergefell and take away the right to gay marriage.”

“Now, he didn’t mention Loving, the right to interracial marriage, which was passed six years before Roe, because of course that would hurt his own self interest,” Kearney noted.

In his concurring opinion, Thomas wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” Legal experts as well as civil and human rights activists have long said that reversing Roe could set the stage for reversing other rights. The rights and the major court cases granting them include:

Thomas, who is Black, is married to Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a white woman who is being investigated for pressuring lawmakers to help overturn the 2020 general election in which current U.S. President Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump. Trump’s claims that he had won the election helped spark the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, investigators are finding.

The interracial marriage between Clarence and Virginia Thomas would have been outlawed without the decision from Loving v. Virginia.

Curp said that the state eventually may pursue a lawsuit against Cincinnati for providing protections for its employees.

“As the former solicitor, I always expect a lawsuit when the city takes bold action, the same way that we did in Obergefell a decade ago,” Curp said. “I was there for that fight, and we’ll stand for that here for as long as we can.”

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