FRANKFORT, Ind. – Indiana’s near-total ban on abortion, which takes effect September 15, has heightened concerns about health care access, especially in rural communities.
According to data from the Indiana Department of Health, more than a third of Indiana’s 92 counties do not have a hospital with in-patient delivery services.
Five years ago, Clinton County became one of those 33 counties when Frankfort’s hospital stopped offering obstetric services to deliver babies.
“When the OB floor closed here in town, I was bombarded with moms [asking], ‘What am I going to do? Where am I going to 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 obtain other OB/GYN treatment in another county has been doable for most expectant mothers, though some have needed help, Smith said.
“It is an issue,” she said. “Clinton County has recently opened up and started a new transportation committee to work on transportation in town.”
Health officials say the need to expand access to health care in rural areas remains as urgent as ever with Indiana’s near-total ban on abortion set to take effect next month.
“Whenever we see legislation of any type limit any type of health care choices or public health options for our county residents, that 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.
“It certainly in our small community puts a burden on the folks that are trying to seek resources or trying to 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.
State Rep. Sharon Negele (R-Attica) – who worked on a new law adding $75 million for social services – said she shares those concerns. She believes there are ways state lawmakers can help, she added.
“I think in many cases, it’s transportation issues too,” 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 for social services in the new state budget, which will be crafted next year.