Kettering abortion clinic faces closure if it loses court fight

The Dayton-area’s lone abortion provider faces a March 12 court date that could result in the closure of the Women’s Med Center in Kettering.

An anti-abortion state lawmaker said closure would “save countless lives of unborn children in the Dayton area.”

Clinic supporters said closure would create hardships for women seeking care, forcing them to travel to Cincinnati or Columbus for abortion services. If the clinic closed, Ohio would have eight abortion providers, half as many as eight years ago.

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At issue is a state law which requires clinics that provide abortion services to have a written agreement with a local hospital that stipulates the hospital will accept a patient if the patient needs emergency medical care.

The Kettering clinic has sued the Ohio Department of Health over the requirement, and a Montgomery County judge ruled in that lawsuit that the court does not have proper jurisdiction to rule in the case. On March 12 the Second District Court of Appeals will hear a challenge to the judge’s decision.

Women’s Med hasn’t been able to get local hospitals to approve a written transfer agreement. Clinic supporters said the agreement isn’t needed because hospitals already have to take emergency patients and said the agreement requirement is politically motivated. Proponents of the measure have said clinics that cannot obtain transfer agreements have that difficulty because they are medically unsafe.

In August, Judge Mary Wiseman’s 20-page ruling on the latest challenge to keep the clinic operating 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, she wrote.

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Dayton Right to Life Assistant Director Margie Christie said she expects nothing new when oral arguments are heard, and she expects the Court of Appeals will uphold the Ohio Department of Health’s license revocation order.

“Women in unplanned pregnancies need to be supported by their families, the baby’s father, and their doctors,” Christie said. “Society should never allow a situation that puts a mother in direct opposition to her own child. This is not a fundamental right, this is an easy escape offered to women by those who have no interest in helping her change her situation or circumstance and make a lot of money doing it.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the closing of Women’s Med would create a hardship for women seeking health care.

“There are seven surgical facilities and two medication-only abortion clinics in Ohio,” she said. “Each and every one of them are a critical resource for their patients. If Women’s Med Center were to close, it would be a devastating loss for the people who need their care.”

No transfer agreements for local hospitals

In 2016, Wiseman allowed Women’s Med to remain open as it fought the state’s effort to take its operating license. The clinic filed an administrative appeal after the state health director revoked the license for alleged violations of transfer agreement and backup physician rules.

The Kettering abortion clinic is about four 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.”

As the March 12 appeals date approaches, neither hospital would provide more information on why they do not have consent agreements.

MORE: Abortion clinic fight: Reaction after a judge upholds the state’s ruling to close Kettering location

Toledo clinic struck deal

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, wants to see Women’s Med close.

“I am hopeful the Court of Appeals will uphold the state law, as the common pleas court did,” Antani said. “The Women’s Med Center is in clear violation of state law and must be shuttered. This will save countless lives of unborn children in the Dayton area.”

In February of last year, ProMedica hospital system authorized a patient-transfer agreement to keep the last abortion clinic in Toledo operating.

Gabriel Mann, communications manager for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, is hoping the appeals court will find that transfer agreements unnecessarily place the burden of deciding whether a community has abortion access on hospital administrators.

“In Toledo, the region’s only abortion clinic had to pressure the only local, private hospital to decide to sign their transfer agreement,” Mann explained. “The decision on whether women in that community could receive abortion care from a clinic was made by a corporation’s CEO.”

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Jennifer Branch and David Greer, co-counsel for Women’s Med, have repeatedly attacked the restrictions adopted by the Ohio legislature. Branch called the transfer agreement requirements “medically unnecessary and politically motivated.”

The Kettering clinic is one of nine abortion providers in Ohio, down from 16 operating in 2011.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio lists Cincinnati, Columbus (3), Akron, Bedford Heights, Toledo and Cleveland as having open abortion clinics. One of the Columbus clinics, Your Choice Healthcare, can administer only medications and does not perform medical procedures.

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Ohio abortions continue to decline

In 2017, there were 20,893 induced abortions in Ohio, a 1 percent increase over 2016, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health.

Over the past 10 years, abortions dropped by nearly a third, from 30,859 in 2007 to 20,893 in 2017, the report indicated.

The annual report uses data reported to the state health department. In 2017, 85 percent of the induced abortions occurred at 12 or less weeks of gestation and 85 percent of the women reported being single. African-Americans represented 44 percent of the women terminating pregnancies in 2017. And 62-percent of women who obtained an abortion last year reported already having one or more children.

MORE: Ohio Supreme Court ruling against abortion clinics could impact Kettering clinic

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