University of Toledo President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs broke his public silence this week on why he moved to terminate transfer agreements with two area abortion clinics. His justification was, frankly, so lame that he would have been better off to keep quiet.
A state-run institution, he said, should not take sides in a national debate. Few people would argue with the premise of his argument. In general, an institution supported by tax dollars should try to stay neutral on partisan issues — and no issue is more partisan or divisive than abortion.
In some cases, public agencies are even enjoined from taking sides. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, for example, cannot legally or properly, lobby for the passage of the millage that supports it.
Even so, Dr. Jacobs’ belief that state-run institutions should remain neutral does not mean that maintaining transfer agreements would have violated that neutrality. On the contrary, his move to terminate those contracts, in effect, put the University of Toledo squarely on the side of those opposing women’s access to abortion.
Ohio law prohibits state-supported or state-sponsored hospitals from performing abortions. But it does not prohibit those hospitals from entering into transfer agreements to treat women who run into medical complications during an abortion procedure.
Moreover, as Dr. Jacobs pointed out, the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, will continue to care for those patients, even without transfer agreements.
Besides making the process smoother, transfer agreements are important because state law generally requires “ambulatory surgical facilities” to have them in case of complications. Thus, UT’s actions could lead to the shutdown of abortion services in Toledo — and added medical risks for women.
In justifying his position, Dr. Jacobs argued that “some folks perceived, correctly or incorrectly, that we had taken a stance’’ by having transfer agreements. That’s true. But it doesn’t seem to bother him that an equal number of people, or more, now perceive that UT has taken the opposite stance by moving to cancel them and deny access to a constitutional right. That decision has, in fact, outraged abortion-rights supporters.
A spurious claim to neutrality cannot justify a cowardly capitulation to the opponents of reproductive freedom. The only way to make this decision right is to reverse it.