January 28, 2016 — Physicians at a Cincinnati-area hospital are no longer allowed to provide abortion care in cases of fatal fetal anomalies, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The hospital had been the last in the area to provide such abortion care.
According to the Enquirer, Cincinnati-area women seeking to obtain abortion care in cases of fatal fetal anomalies must now either visit a Planned Parenthood clinic or travel out of the region.
The Enquirer learned about the policy change as part of its investigation into whether the hospital, Christ Hospital in Mount Auburn, Ohio, had disclosed to the state the number of abortions it provided after 12 weeks of pregnancy, as required by state law. At the time of the investigation, the hospital had not submitted the information to the state, but it has since done so.
According to the Enquirer, other hospitals in the state have not reported the requested data. For example, a spokesperson for Mercy Health said it did not submit such a report in the last few years because it had not provided any abortion care during that time. The state Department of Health currently is requesting the information from hospitals that have not filed a report.
Details of New Policy
Christ Hospital did not specify whether it allowed such abortion care in the past. However, David Schwartz, an obstetrician who has provided abortion care at Christ Hospital in cases of fatal fetal anomalies, said he had offered such care at the hospital last year.
Under a policy adopted in November 2015, the Christ Hospital permits abortion care only "in situations deemed to be a threat to the life of the [woman]." According to the Enquirer, the change is similar to rules in place at the other four regional Ohio hospital systems. The policy also states, "No person is required to participate in [abortion care]," even in cases of life endangerment. Physicians are allowed to provide abortion care in instances when the fetus is already "deceased," according to the policy.
Schwartz said hospital officials last year told him that the hospital would change its abortion care policy in response to a 2008 state law. The law requires facilities that offer abortion care to post "in a conspicuous location … accessible to all patients, employees, and visitors" a large sign that states that no one is permitted to force a woman to have an abortion. Under the law, hospitals that provide abortion care only to prevent a pregnant woman from dying or experiencing substantial injury do not have to post the sign.
A Christ Hospital spokesperson did not comment when asked by the Enquirer to confirm the policy change.
Danielle Craig, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, noted that women seeking such care who are at risk of certain health complications now must be referred to a hospital outside of the area. "The cases are highly emotional and tragic." She added, "Under these circumstances, for many patients, an overnight stay in a hospital is better than an outpatient procedure, and women should have that option," she said. Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said women with certain health risks require a hospital setting for abortion care, noting, "Women who used to be able to turn to Christ Hospital at their time of greatest need can no longer trust their community medical center" (Balmert/Thompson,Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/26).