A Montgomery County judge’s decision upholding a state ruling that would force the Dayton-area’s lone abortion provider to close likely moves the long-running fight to an appeals court.
Abortion opponents, however, said Common Pleas Judge Mary Wiseman’s decision about the Women’s Med Center in Kettering on Wednesday, Aug. 22 gave them reason for hope.
“We look forward to the day when the doors of this facility are permanently closed,” said Margie Christie, assistant executive director of Dayton Right to Life.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the closing of Women’s Med will provide a hardship for women seeking health care.
“Women’s Med Center is a critical health care resource for not just Southwest Ohio but for the entire tri-state area,” she said. “The most important thing for the community to know is that the clinic will remain open as it researches its appeal options.”
Women’s Med has 30 days to file an appeal and can remain open during that time.
The possible closure of the Kettering clinic would leave seven abortion providers in Ohio, down from 16 operating in 2011.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio lists Cincinnati, Columbus (2), Akron, Bedford Heights, Toledo and Cleveland as having open abortion clinics.
Wiseman’s 20-page ruling came down to one basic point: the “court lacks the jurisdiction” to intervene in the Women’s Med dispute with the Ohio Department of Health.
In 2016, Wiseman allowed Women’s Med to remain open as it fought the state’s effort to take its operating license. The clinic had filed an administrative appeal after the state health director revoked the license for alleged violations of transfer agreement and backup physician rules.
Wiseman heard oral arguments last week about the latest challenge.
At the center of this dispute has been the constitutionality of the transfer agreement requirement, and the inability of Women’s Med to get one.
The Kettering abortion clinic is a little under 4 miles from both Kettering Medical Center, operated by Kettering Health Network, and Miami Valley Hospital South, operated by Premier Health.
Kettering Health said in a statement, “Kettering Health Network does not have a transfer agreement.”
Premier confirmed there are no transfer agreements at any of its hospitals to accept transfers from clinics that perform abortions, “although our hospitals will accept any patient who presents with an emergency condition.”
Jennifer Branch, the attorney for Women’s Med, has repeatedly attacked the restrictions adopted by the Ohio legislature, which mandate that clinics providing abortions have written transfer agreements with hospitals in case of emergencies. Branch called the requirements medically unnecessary and politically motivated.
But Wiseman wrote “the court simply lacks jurisdiction” to address the arguments by Women’s Med and upheld the Ohio Department of Health’s decision.
Women’s Med co-counsel David Greer said: “The stay that is in place will continue for a 30-day period for a filing of an appeal, so that gives us 30 days to think about what course we want to follow.”
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