The last clinic in Toledo that performs abortions is fighting for its survival. It seeks to affiliate with the University of Michigan to comply with an oppressive Ohio law that requires it to partner with a “local” hospital to remain open.
The intent of the law is not to protect women’s health but rather to force the clinic to close and thus deny women the ability to exercise their constitutional right to reproductive freedom.
Last January, Capital Care Network entered into an agreement with UM’s health system to provide emergency care in case of complications involving patients at its Toledo clinic. Last month, the company argued in a legal brief that the law that requires the partnership is unconstitutionally vague because it doesn’t define a “local” hospital.
Former Ohio health director Ted Wymyslo defined “local” as 30 minutes’ travel time to a hospital, which would appear to exclude the Ann Arbor facility. Hospitals in metropolitan Toledo have refused to align with Capital Care.
The debate over what constitutes a local hospital is a charade. A transfer agreement between a clinic and a Toledo hospital is not needed to protect women’s health. Under federal law, if an emergency occurs, no local hospital could refuse to treat a patient.
Still, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine argues that transporting a patient to Ann Arbor would jeopardize patient safety when emergency medical aid is needed. Mr. DeWine claims he’s concerned about the welfare of women who use Capital Care’s services. If state government were truly concerned, it wouldn’t impose punitive, unnecessary restrictions on this or any other clinic.
Ohio isn’t alone. Republican-controlled legislatures in Southern states are similarly on a campaign that would drastically reduce access to abortion. Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas have passed bills that require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — another undue burden on women and their doctors.
The anti-abortion rights crusade flies in the face of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure and gave women control of their bodies. State by state, these laws erode women’s options and expose an ill-disguised strategy by GOP lawmakers to outlaw abortion by degrees.
Last year, Ohio’s General Assembly jammed several overreaching rules that restrict abortions into state budget legislation; Gov. John Kasich approved them. The decision to have an abortion is a deeply personal issue; politicians have no right to insert themselves into that process and surely not in such an underhanded manner.
A state hearing officer is expected to make a recommendation this month on whether UM’s health system can be designated a local facility for Capital Care Network. The final decision lies with the interim director of the Ohio Department of Health, who earlier proposed revoking Capital Care’s license.
Whatever their previous positions, these officials should do the right thing for women in this region and not follow in the wayward footsteps of the governor and legislature.
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