November 10, 2015 — The University of Cincinnati Medical Center and UC Health last week filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them and the Ohio Department of Health by two abortion clinics, the Hamilton Journal-News reports (Callahan, Hamilton Journal-News, 11/6).
Under Ohio's 2014-2015 budget (HB 59), signed in 2013, abortion clinics in the state are required to have a patient transfer agreement with a hospital. Clinics are prohibited from making such arrangements with public hospitals.
In addition, 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 or request a variance from the requirement. The law also requires the state health director to grant or deny a clinic's variance request within 60 days. Clinics unable to obtain a variance within 60 days are required to close, although they are permitted to reopen if they obtain approval at a later time. If the clinic's variance request is denied, its operating license is automatically suspended.
In September, the Ohio Department of Health denied variance requests from the Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio clinic in Cincinnati and the Women's Med Center of Dayton, which are the only remaining clinics in southwest Ohio (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/14). The clinics found three physicians who said they would provide emergency medical care, but ODH Director Richard Hodges rejected those variance requests as inadequate (Hamilton Journal-News, 11/6).
The clinics were given 30 days to appeal the decision. Later that month, U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett ruled that the clinics could remain open while they appeal the license revocation decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/14). Meanwhile, the clinics made arrangements with a fourth physician and filed another variance request, which currently is pending (Hamilton Journal-News, 11/6).
The operators of the two clinics also have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the requirements. In October, Barrett issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law while the federal lawsuit moves forward (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/14).
UCMC attorney Russel Sayre in the motion to dismiss claims that UCMC should not be required to grant a patient transfer agreement to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has until the end of November to respond to the motion to dismiss.
According to the Journal-News, the state has "made it nearly impossible" for Planned Parenthood to keep its clinics open without violating the law. Jennifer Branch, attorney for Planned Parenthood, said, "The state has set up a system that only applies to [abortion clinics] that says you can't get a license because you can't find a private hospital to give you [a transfer agreement]." She added, "[T]hat's an unconstitutional process that they have created, that only applies to abortion clinics" (Hamilton Journal-News, 11/6).