YOUNGSTOWN — When asked about obstacles to choice in their community during a conversation about women's health Wednesday night, Mahoning Valley participants talked extensively about access.
From grocery stores to maternity wards, Youngstown residents are often forced to travel to take care of themselves, participants explained.
The conversation was part of a series of localized discussions throughout Ohio hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and Ohio Women's Alliance.
With the closure of Northside Medical Center in 2018, the city's health care access issues start at birth.
"In a city of almost 70,000 people, there isn't one place for a woman to have a baby," said Jadalah Aslam, who participated in Wednesday's conversation.
People are thus forced to travel as far as Boardman or Warren to deliver babies.
For abortion services and gender-affirming health care, Mahoning Valley residents have to travel to Cleveland or Pittsburgh, participants noted.
Aslam also explained the lack of grocery stores makes accessing decent food a challenge for city residents.
While she lives in Austintown and has access to nearby grocery stores, "buying fresh produce in the city is next to impossible," she said — especially if you don't have a car.
Faith Rhodes, who lives in Trumbull County, does not have access to transportation and said she relies on Amazon Prime to get groceries delivered or asks friends to take her to the grocery store.
"But, like some items can't be freshly delivered, like vegetables or a few dairy products," she said.
For facilitators Jasmine Henderson, director of policy and social impact at Ohio Women's Alliance, and Hannah Servedio, senior organizer at NARAL Ohio, understanding the area's issues is just the beginning.
"This is not a one and done conversation," Servedio said. "We'd like to continue to work with folks on resources and conversations and whatever we as statewide organizations can do to help."