High court’s decision could impact Ohio law

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High court’s decision could impact Ohio law

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Pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, June 27, 2016. The court finished its term with a decision on abortion – a case deciding the constitutionality of two provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion could affect access to abortions for millions of women in several states.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas abortion clinic law likely will affect Ohio, which has similar requirements in place.

As part of its decision Monday, the high court overruled Texas law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals close by and requiring abortion clinics to meet surgical-center operating standards.

INITIAL COVERAGE >>  Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion law

The decision potentially could apply to an Ohio case pending in federal court.

Katie Franklin, spokeswoman for Ohio Right to Life, said the abortion law in Ohio is more broadly worded than in Texas and should stand up as constitutional and in the interest of assuring a woman’s health.

She said Ohio law requires a transfer agreement between abortion providers and local hospitals — not admitting privileges, or a hospital staff physician’s right to have a patient admitted to a hospital.

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While Ohio abortion providers have to meet surgical-center operating standards, as Texas law required, the standards here also apply to all ambulatory surgical facilities. Such facilities provide same-day surgical care.

“We have worked over the years to craft law that is constitutional,” Franklin said. “We do believe states should regulate the practice of abortion. Most Americans would want abortion to be safe, although it is not for the unborn child.”

Valerie Haskell, vice president for the Women’s Med Center in Kettering, an abortion provider, hasn’t come to any conclusions about the Supreme Court decision.

“The decision is promising and we are still analyzing the opinion to determine what it means for Ohio,” Haskell said through a spokesman.

In federal court, the lawsuit Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio vs. Richard Hodges, Ohio’s Director of Health, is challenging House Bills 59 and 64, passed in 2013 and 2015, respectively. The case is in its discovery and pre-trail phase. It is scheduled to go to trial in 2017.

The lawsuit challenges the written transfer agreement requirment in Ohio — a formal agreement between health care facilities to transfer patients — and the law prohibiting public hospitals from entering into such contracts with abortion providers. By federal court order, while the case is pending, the laws are not in effect.

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The pending laws make it harder to open and operate abortion clinics, said Jennifer L. Branch, an attorney with Gerhardstein & Branch Co. of Cincinnati, which represents the Women’s Med Center, Planned Parenthood and Capital Care, an abortion provider in Toledo.

In Cincinnati, only one hospital is not Catholic or a public hospital, Branch said.

Clinics in Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo are threatened by the pending laws, she said.

“I think it is a great decision because it clarifies the standard,” Branch said. “The Supreme Court requires the state prove it has a medical reason that outweighs the burden on the clinic.”

She called the written tranfer agreement a moot point because in the event of an emergency a clinic will telephone 911 and a patient will be taken to a nearby hospital. Ohio clinics have already met the surgical-center standards without great burden, Branch said.

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