State has closed several abortion clinics this year

Clinics in Cincinnati, Dayton wait to hear their fate

Five of Ohio’s 14 abortion clinics have either closed this year or on the brink of closure, a Dayton Daily News investigation of state records found.

The Ohio Department of Health has revoked the licenses of four of those clinics. Two of them — one in Toledo and one in Akron— have shut down.

Another Toledo clinic is appealing the state’s revocation and the Lebanon Road Surgery Center located in Sharonville has until Monday to appeal. Another Cleveland clinic, which had been shut down by the state twice in the past decade, was closed last month by its owner.

Only two abortion clinics remain open in the Dayton-Cincinnati region, but both are waiting on the state to approve applications that would allow abortions to continue at the facilities.

A state examiner last week upheld a decision by the health department to shut down the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, at 11250 Lebanon Rd., Cincinnati, because the clinic didn’t have a valid patient transfer agreement with a nearby hospital. Abortion clinics in Ohio must have written agreements with privately owned hospitals to transfer patients in case they have a medical emergency during surgery.

“We’re pleased that the current actions of the Department of Health are likely to shut (the clinic) down,” Sharonville Mayor Kevin Hardman said. “From its inception, the clinic had not had a transfer agreement with a local hospital.”

The clinic’s closure would mark the fourth clinic the state has shut down since Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. A spokesman from his office declined comment for this story.

Only one abortion clinic — Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio Region — would remain in the Cincinnati metro area, home to about 2 million people.

State officials said they don’t keep an official list of active abortion clinics or ones that have been ordered closed. The Dayton Daily News analyzed hundreds of pages of state health records dating back to 2000, the oldest records the state has immediately available, and found that since that time the state has shut down same-day surgery facilities 18 times in Ohio’s six largest cities.

Some of those facilities provided eye or plastic surgery; five provided abortions.

Three of the abortion clinics were ordered closed by Kasich’s health director, Theodore Wymylso, and two closures were ordered while Republican Gov. Bob Taft held office. The state did not shut down any abortion clinics under Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland. If the Sharonville abortion clinic closes, 2013 would mark the most state-ordered closures of abortion clinics since 2000.

Ohio’s abortion clinics are facing more restrictions after the state budget bill banned the clinics from signing transfer agreements with public hospitals. The budget bill also requires women to listen to the fetal heartbeat before an abortion. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued the state over the new legislation.

At the same time, the number of women seeking abortions in Ohio increased by 2.8 percent for the first time in a dozen years. More than 25,000 abortions were performed last year in Ohio and 1,101 were performed on women living in Montgomery County.

Some doctors argue a law mandating transfer agreements for same-day surgery clinics, including abortion facilities, is unnecessary, said Lisa Keder, the division director for general obstetrics and gynecology division at Ohio State University.

“Hospitals can’t refuse care for people. If a patient presents with an emergency, a hospital is obligated to take care of that patient,” Keder said. “Does that sound like a situation where you would need a transfer agreement?”

The transfer agreement requirement has forced all of the Dayton-Cincinnati abortion clinics to ask the health department to grant a special waiver to continue operations if they can’t form agreements with a nearby private hospital. If the state doesn’t approve the waiver, the clinics could face closure.

Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood abortion clinic is one of the clinics asking the state for a variance waiver to continue abortions. The clinic, which has been in operation since 1985, has held a transfer agreement for patients with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for several years, said Rick Pender, vice president for development and external affairs at Planned Parenthood.

That agreement ended in September, he said, and the clinic is waiting for the state to approve a variance application that would allow the surgical center to stay open.

“By virtue of having put in the (waiver) filing, we can continue to operate,” Pender said. “We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude.”

Officials with Planned Parenthood declined to discuss the details of their variance application.

The Dayton area faces the same situation; the last remaining abortion clinic in the area, the Women’s Med Center at 1401 E. Stroop Road, is operated by the same doctor who runs the Lebanon Road Surgery Center. The Dayton clinic is also waiting on a variance application that would allow the clinic to operate without a transfer agreement, a spokesman for the Department of Health said. Officials with Women’s Med Center did not return calls for comment.

If the state doesn’t approve those applications, women living in southwest Ohio will have to travel across the state to seek an abortion, said Kellie Copeland, director for Pro-Choice Ohio.

“That entire half of the state won’t have anywhere for women to turn,” Copeland said. “Women (will) have to travel, and they’ll have to go twice because there’s a 24-hour waiting period (for an abortion).”

Ohio Right to Life Director Mike Gonidakis said that Kasich has simply been enforcing laws surrounding abortion and same-day surgery clinics more diligently, driving some clinics to close.

“The current governor is enforcing all of the laws, that’s all we ask,” Gonidakis said. “I don’t think the administration is taking a hard line on abortion clinics. I think they’re doing their job.”

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