FRANKFORT, Ind. – Indiana almost total ban on abortionwhich takes effect on September 15, has raised concerns about access to health care, particularly in rural communities.
According to data from the Indiana Department of Healthmore than one-third of Indiana’s 92 counties do not have a hospital with in-hospital delivery services.
Five years ago, Clinton County became one of those 33 counties when the Frankfort hospital stopped offering obstetric services to deliver babies.
“When the OB floor closed here in the city, I was bombarded with mothers [asking], ‘What will I do? Where do I go?’” said Libbi Smith, early start coordinator for Healthy Communities of Clinton County, a nonprofit that works to connect residents with health care services.
Driving 15 or 20 minutes to give birth or get another OB/GYN treatment in another county has been possible for most expectant mothers, though some need assistance, Smith said.
“It’s an issue,” she said. “Clinton County has recently opened and created a new transportation committee to work on transportation in the city.”
Health officials say the need to expand access to health care in rural areas remains as urgent as ever with Indiana’s near-total abortion ban set to take effect next month.
“Anytime we see legislation of any kind to limit any kind of health care choices or public health options for the residents of our county, it concerns us in public health,” said Rodney Wann, Clinton County health administrator.
Wann said he’s trying to prepare for an increased demand for services his county doesn’t have.
“Certainly in our small community it puts a burden on people who are trying to seek resources or seek treatment,” Wann said.
Wann said he wants Hoosiers in rural areas to have better access to health care.
State Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) agrees.
“A relatively small investment is so smart for our state and for our mothers and babies,” Hamilton said.
Rep. State Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica) – who worked in a new law that adds $75 million to social services – she said she shares these concerns. She believes there are ways state lawmakers can help, she added.
“I think in many cases, it’s also a transportation issue,” Negele said. “So we have to figure out how to improve that access.”
Negele and Republican state legislative leaders say they plan to allocate more funding to social services in the new state budget, which will be drafted next year.
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