The Ohio Department of Health’s announcement Wednesday that it has granted a surgical facility license to the Women’s Med Center in Kettering after the abortion clinic’s years-long court battle to stay open has drawn a strong reaction from people on both sides of the issue.
The ODH ruling was a clear victory for the Dayton area’s last abortion clinic, and came just two weeks after the Ohio Supreme Court denied an appeal from the center. The court’s decision upholds the lower court rulings that required the facility to get a transfer agreement for its patients to go to a nearby hospital.
The abortion provider had postponed surgical abortions as it pursued multiple avenues to stay open, including state and federal court challenges and protests, as well as signed petitions with more than 700 names directed at local health systems and doctors.
In 2016, ODH ordered the Kettering clinic to close because it failed to obtain that patient-transfer agreement. The clinic appealed the decision, but after an Ohio appeals court sided with the state, the health department moved to revoke the clinic’s license in April.
But now, the approved surgical license by ODH means that Women’s Med can offer both surgical and medication abortion services.
On Thursday, Dayton Right to Life Executive Director Margie Christie, and Stephanie Ranade Krider of Ohio Right to Life, said they were still struggling to understand the logic and legality behind the decision, and find it unacceptable.
“We are completely dismayed and disgusted with the Ohio Department of Health’s inability to revoke a license and then stand by that decision. Abortion facilities continue to make a mockery of this Department and Ohio taxpayers,” Christie said. “Taxpayers should truly question how their money is being spent fighting appeals, in this case for 3 years, only to have to have a new license put in place weeks later.”
Krider added: “We are obviously devastated by the ODH decision, and the fact that it weighs heavily on the side of recklessness.”
Women’s Med should not have been granted the license because the violation of not getting a transfer agreement is a clear violation of the law, Krider said.
“The clinic is responsible for the deaths of tens-of-thousand of unborn babies,” she said. “I feel like there is a missing piece of the puzzle obviously as to why it was granted a license.”
Jennifer Branch, the attorney for the clinic, explained that what seemed to help Women’s Med get approval from ODH for its surgical facility license is that four doctors signed on as back-up doctors, plus the testimony from a former hospital administrator.
Women’s Med Center and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio have also filed an ongoing lawsuit in federal court to block the state law, which requires a clinic to have the medically unnecessary transfer agreement or variance.
As part of that lawsuit, the former director of Emergency Medicine for Miami Valley Hospitals, Dr. Norman Schneiderman, filed an affidavit stating that the state’s transfer agreement requirement is unnecessary.
“I understand that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many abortion clinics in Ohio, including Women’s Med Center Dayton to obtain a WTA (written transfer agreement) with a local hospital that is not a public hospital,” he stated. “In my 40 years of experience working in emergency departments, I have never seen or heard of medical staff referring to a transfer agreement while providing care.”
ODH Director of Health, Amy Acton, stated in a letter obtained by this news organization that, “I am granting the variance request of Women’s Med Center of Dayton. This variance is an alternative to the requirement for a written transfer agreement. I may rescind this variance at any time and for any reason.”
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said he does not support the ODH decision.
“I am sickened by the decision to grant a license to this abortion clinic, especially after the Supreme Court ruled that the past license denial was within the law,” he said. “This decision will cost thousands of babies’ their lives, and I urge this decision to be reversed.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland called the ODH ruling an end to some politicians attempts “to use regulatory schemes to close abortion clinics and strip Ohioans of their reproductive freedoms.”
Elaina Ramsey, executive director of the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, also applauded the decision and said it affirms “the essential abortion services that Women’s Med Center provides.”
“Abortion is health care and a family value that enables Ohioans to determine their own reproductive futures,” Ramsey said. “We’re grateful for all the activists, including many people of faith, who worked tirelessly to keep this clinic open.”
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