Federal Judge orders abortions clinics to remain open while they appeal transfer agreement requirement

By Dave Andrusko

Federal Judge Michael Barrett

Federal Judge Michael Barrett

Last Friday the Ohio Department of Health denied a request for an exception (a “variance“) to an Ohio abortion law from Southwest Ohio’s two abortion facilities, Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati and Women’s Med Center of Dayton

But on Monday, Federal Judge Michael Barrett of the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati ordered the Health Department to allow the clinics to stay open while they appealed the decision. Federal judge Timothy S. Black is hearing the clinics’ challenge.

The “variance” the abortion clinics are seeking is from a law passed two years ago that requires ambulatory surgical facilities to have a written transfer agreement with a local hospital to provide continued care in the event of emergencies. As of September 2014, abortion clinics were prohibited from making these arrangements with public hospitals.

In a decision last year reached on the challenge brought by Lebanon Road Surgery Center, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jerome Metz Jr. ruled it is the Ohio Department of Health’s “sole discretion” whether it gives a variance to the requirement that abortion clinics have a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital in cases of emergency.

“If a facility cannot obtain an agreement, it may request a variance from the law, providing a sufficient number of backup physicians,” according to Ohio Right to Life. “The denial follows Governor John Kasich’s enactment of a new policy that requires the Department of Health to respond to a facility’s license application in reasonable time.”

Last summer marked the end of surgical abortions at Lebanon Road Surgery Center, one of Southwest Ohio’s three abortion facilities. According to Chrissie Thompson of the Cincinnati Enquirer, if Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati and Women’s Med Center of Dayton close, “The closures would take the number of surgical abortion providers in Ohio to seven, down from 14 in 2013, and would make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion clinic, according to an Enquirer analysis.” (Lebanon Road Surgery Center remains open, providing chemical–RU-486– abortions.)

“Cincinnati Planned Parenthood is under scrutiny for not following health and safety laws yet is permitted to remain open and see patients,” Paula Westwood, executive director of Greater Cincinnati Right to Life, told Fr. Mark Hodges. “What other medical facility would be granted such a pass? For that matter, what hair salon, or restaurant?”

“The continued coddling protection of a facility that preys upon women and their unborn children is stunning,” Westwood added.

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