January 23, 2014 — The Ohio Department of Health on Friday ordered an abortion clinic to close after denying its request for reprieve from a state law on hospital transfer agreements, the AP/Sandusky Register reports (AP/Sandusky Register, 1/22).
Ohio law requires that ambulatory surgical facilities -- including abortion clinics -- have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies. In September, provisions in the state budget took effect that require abortion clinics to secure the transfer agreements with private hospitals and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals, among other restrictions (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/17/13).
The clinic -- Women's Med Center in Sharonville, Ohio -- plans to appeal the ruling by Feb. 3. The clinic may be allowed to remain open during the appeal process.
An analysis cross-referencing U.S. Census data and abortion providers found that if Cincinnati's only other remaining clinic closes, the region will become the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion provider. Overall, the rules could soon reduce Ohio's 14 clinics to seven, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
According to the Enquirer, three clinics in the state -- located in Toledo, Cleveland and Akron -- closed last year for reasons mostly unrelated to the new rules. Two other clinics located in Mount Auburn and Dayton have requested special permission from the state to remain open, although the state has not yet responded.
Meanwhile, two other clinics -- one also located in Toledo and Women's Med Center in Sharonville -- petitioned for a special reprieve from the requirement. The Toledo center's petition is scheduled for a hearing on Feb. 18.
Women's Med Center Ruling
In an email Friday, an Ohio Department of Health spokesperson wrote that because Women's Med Center has a "history of problems," the department "no longer has confidence that this ambulatory surgery facility will take necessary steps to operate in accordance with regulations."
In the final order Friday, Health Department Director Theodore Wymyslo said that the clinic failed to request approval for its two back-up doctors in 2012, both of whom had "credentialing and disciplinary issues." He wrote, "These issues could have directly affected the ability to have back-up physicians available, without interruption, to admit patients in order to provide for the timely and effective continuity of care in the event of an emergency."
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the ruling jeopardizes the likelihood that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Mount Auburn will be able to operate under a similar variance that it has requested (Peale/Thompson, Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/21).
Supporters of 'Heartbeat' Bill Launch Mailer
In related news, an Ohio antiabortion-rights group called Faith2Action is launching a mail campaign this week that targets Republican state lawmakers for failing to pass a measure that would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/Washington Times reports.
The bill failed in 2012 after the state Senate's GOP leader blocked it from a vote, and a new effort is currently stalled in the Republican-controlled state House (AP/Washington Times, 1/21).