A judge has ruled that the Dayton area’s only abortion clinic can remain open while fighting to keep its state operating license.
Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Wiseman issued an emergency order Monday to stay and suspend state health director Rick Hodges’ Nov. 30 order against Women’s Med Center of Dayton while the center appeals.
Hodges revoked the license on grounds the facility lacked a required transfer agreement with a hospital for emergencies and failed to name an adequate number of backup physicians to qualify for a variance.
The center says evolving state abortion laws have required an increasingly larger number of doctors despite a smaller number being approved in the past.
Women’s Med Center previously had a variance request denied for having only two backup physicians listed. Its most recent application for a variance included the names of three backup doctors, but was denied in October.
Wiseman found closing the facility during the appeal would harm clientele of the Stroop Road clinic.
“Dayton area women seeking a surgical abortion no longer will have access to that procedure locally, and the financial circumstances of many prospective patients may mean that they effectively are foreclosed from obtaining such services at all,” Wiseman wrote.
She also said closing the clinic for the duration of the appeal would pose undue hardship on its owner, Dr. Martin Haskell.
“Dr. Haskell’s undisputed affidavit credibly attests that if WMCD’s surgery center were to be ‘mothball(ed)’ throughout this appeal, the cost of later re-staffing and reopening the clinic would be prohibitive,” she wrote.
Abortion opponents have argued that the clinic’s inability to procure a transfer agreement or a variance is endangering patients.
Wiseman noted that the state took years to decide on the clinic’s variance requests in the past and she said there is no evidence the center is unsafe.
“No risk to public health will arise from the surgery center’s continued operation that has not existed throughout the entire four years that WMCD’s 2012 request for a variance was pending,” she said.
The appeals process is likely to take a year or more.
“This means that the clinic will be able to stay open until a final decision is made,” attorney Jennifer Branch said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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