July 16, 2015 — An abortion clinic in northeastern Ohio has received a license to provide surgical abortions, the AP/Oklahoma News reports.
According to abortion-rights advocates, the clinic, the Northeast Ohio Women's Center, is the first in the state to receive a license in several years (Franko, AP/Oklahoma News, 7/15).
Several antiabortion-rights laws have passed in the state since 2011. In that time, the number of clinics has dropped from 16 to eight. Some of the closings are connected to the laws, while one was related to safety violations and another was for business reasons (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/4).
Among other requirements, the state's 2013 budget (HB 59) mandates that abortion clinics in the state obtain a transfer agreement with a private hospital. Clinics are prohibited from making such arrangements with public hospitals.
Further, Gov. John Kasich (R) recently signed into law a state budget (HB 64) that requires abortion clinics to arrange a patient transfer agreement with a hospital no more than 30 miles away. In addition, the budget includes a provision that requires the state health director to grant or deny a clinic's variance request within 60 days (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7). Clinics unable to obtain a variance within 60 days would be required to close, although they would be permitted to reopen if they obtain approval at a later time (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/19). The latest budget restrictions could threaten two clinics in the state, Capital Care Network in Toledo and Women's Med Center in Dayton (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/7).
The Ohio Department of Health on Wednesday said it approved Northeast Ohio Women's Center's license to operate as an outpatient surgery facility in late June and backdated it to March, the AP/Oklahoma News reports. The clinic, which opened in Cuyahoga Falls after another closed in 2013, has provided medication abortion for over a year.
David Burkons, who opened the clinic, said he would like to begin offering surgical abortions at the facility in late July.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the licensing was "an important victory," but also noted that the state took more than one year to approve the license.
Similarly, Burkons expressed concern about whether ODH deliberately took longer to approve his application than those from other ambulatory surgical centers that do not offer abortion. "I suspect that I was being discriminated against because of being an abortion provider," Burkons said.
Meanwhile, ODH spokesperson Melanie Amato said, "ODH takes the time necessary to ensure that [ambulatory surgical centers] are in compliance with these state laws and regulations that are designed to protect the health and safety of Ohio residents" (AP/Oklahoma News, 7/15).