UTMC’s abortion cave-in


While lawmakers across the nation move to erode — and even erase — women’s access to abortion, the attack in Ohio on this constitutional right is coming most immediately from the University of Toledo Medical Center. That action is an illogical, political capitulation to opponents of reproductive freedom.

Last week, UTMC moved to end contracts with two local clinics that perform abortions. UT President Lloyd Jacobs, a medical doctor, has failed to explain the move, either to the clinics or the public.

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State law generally requires “ambulatory surgical facilities” to have transfer agreements in case of complications. UTMC’s action could lead to the shutdown of abortion services in Toledo — and added medical risks for women.

A Republican state lawmaker and a group that opposes reproductive rights called the transfer pacts illegal. That’s nonsense. Ohio law prohibits state-supported or state-sponsored hospitals from performing abortions. But it does not prohibit these hospitals from entering into transfer agreements to treat women who run into medical complications during an abortion procedure.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, accused UT officials of caving in to political pressure from the head of Ohio Right to Life, Mike Gonidakis. Last year, Gov. John Kasich appointed Mr. Gonidakis to the State Medical Board of Ohio; with such a strong and partisan political agenda, Mr. Gonidakis has no business serving on the board.

The governor needs to rein in the extremist wing of his own party before lawmakers seek to outlaw all transfer agreements between clinics that perform abortions and state-funded hospitals — or even try to revive the unconstitutional “heartbeat” bill.

Republicans in safe districts can take these extreme stands. But Mr. Kasich and the state GOP will pay the price for them if abortion rights opponents succeed in shutting down local clinics.

Here and around the nation, reproductive rights are under attack, with many states enacting extreme and unconstitutional restrictions. North Dakota has just banned abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks after conception. That’s before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Arkansas has passed a fetal-heartbeat law that bans abortion as early as at 12 weeks. It’s illogical that lawmakers who complain about big government interference in private health-care decisions support such Draconian measures.

Other states are passing laws that, while they do not directly flout the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, restrict the procedure or deny it. Opinion polls show that most Americans continue to support the high court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.

In the last session of Ohio’s General Assembly, the Republican-led House passed a heartbeat bill that supporters claimed would have banned as many as 90 percent of now-legal abortions in the state. Republican leaders in the state Senate properly allowed the measure to expire.

There is talk of reviving the heartbeat bill this year. That talk should be ignored. Such a bill would put women at risk and defy the Constitution.

Nor would its enactment represent the views of most Ohioans, or even help opponents of reproductive rights overturn 40 years of settled law.