As the United States marks another anniversary of Roe v. Wade today, Ohio seeks to shut down a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic.
The Lebanon Road Surgery Center in Sharonville was targeted for closure in November 2012, a move upheld by an Ohio Department of Health hearing officer in the fall and ordered on Friday by State Health Director Ted Wymyslo effective Feb. 4.
The order follows the “voluntary” closing of a Cleveland abortion clinic on Sept. 30; the decision last year to shutter Toledo’s Capital Care Women’s Center, whose appeal will be heard next month; and the pending attempt by another Cincinnati abortion clinic to obtain an exemption from state law.
The latest move might help bring the abortion issue to full boil in the Buckeye State. Already, abortion-rights supporters were agitated because the state budget, passed by the GOP-dominated legislature and signed by Gov. John Kasich last year, added several new abortion restrictions. Last week, Kasich’s likely Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, picked an abortion-rights leader as his running mate, and they and the rest of the Democratic ticket are making a joint appearance today with Ohio Planned Parenthood leaders.
Meanwhile, the group Faith2Action, which has been pushing for a bill that would ban abortions in Ohio once a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, is mailing postcards this week attempting to pressure GOP lawmakers — dubbed “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only) — who don’t back the bill.
“What’s the difference between a RINO Republican and a pro-abortion Democrat?” the postcards ask. “Not much — 26,000 babies a year in Ohio will be just as dead.”
The Sharonville clinic was shut down because, like the Toledo center and the other Cincinnati facility, it does not have a valid transfer agreement — a pact required of all Ohio ambulatory surgical facilities with a local hospital to accept patients if medical help is needed.
If two of those three clinics close, Ohio will have fewer than 10 abortion clinics for the first time in decades.
“There is a history of problems with this particular ambulatory surgery facility and operator” in Sharonville, said Tessie Pollock, spokeswoman for the health department. “The agency no longer has confidence that this (facility) will take necessary steps to operate in accordance with regulations.”
The clinic’s attorney, Jennifer Branch of Cincinnati, said an appeal will be filed within the 15-day limit, asking a local judge to allow the facility to remain open until the case is resolved. She called the state’s action “unprecedented” and part of “a regulatory witch hunt on abortion providers at the behest of Gov. John Kasich.”
“Women’s Med Center has provided quality medical care to its patients since (the department) licensed the Center in 2010 even though it did not have a transfer agreement,” Branch said. “We are disappointed that after allowing the center to operate without a transfer agreement for over three years, (the department) has now refused to renew the center’s license.”
In a two-page letter to Branch, Wymyslo said he was troubled by the center’s failure to inform the state and request approval for changes made to the variance under which the clinic was previously operating. That factor “worried me that conditions at the facility while operating under the variance could not be adequately monitored to ensure patient safety,” the doctor said.
Wymyslo criticized the clinic for bringing two new backup physicians on board without informing the health department of “credentialing and disciplinary issues,” which he said caused him “serious concern.”
The clinic did not check one of the doctor’s license profile with the State Medical Board and never verified one of the backup’s admitting privileges at the local hospital, he wrote.
“We want to thank the health department for enforcing Ohio law and refusing to allow the abortion industry to escape complying with health and safety standards,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement. “Women’s health is priority number one and today’s actions by the Kasich administration should serve as a wake-up call that Ohio will no longer turn a blind eye towards unhealthy medical practices.”
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said, “Gov. Kasich and his political appointees at the Ohio Department of Health are abusing their regulatory authority by moving to close an abortion clinic without any medical justification. ... Clearly this is about politics and ideology, not patient safety.”
By Darrel Rowland - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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