It takes only one person to do the right thing, and sometimes only one person can. That burden and responsibility now falls on Lance Himes, interim director of the Ohio Department of Health, who should straighten his spine and overturn a decision that would force the closure of Toledo’s sole remaining abortion provider.
This week, a state hearing examiner recommended that Toledo’s last abortion provider, Capital Care Network, be closed because it lacks a valid emergency-care agreement with a local hospital, as required by Ohio law.
It’s a bogus argument, based on a law that was enacted solely to close abortion clinics. To address this regressive law, Capital Care Network had established a transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, whose service area includes Toledo.
The latest decision continues the war on women’s health and privacy, and attempts to chip away at abortion rights. Mr. Himes cannot be party to denying Toledo-area women the right to a safe, legal, and constitutionally protected medical procedure.
Toledo-area women would be forced to seek procedures in Detroit or other cities in Ohio. There are women, with financial or transportation limitations, who will be unduly burdened — or simply unable — to find alternatives. These unreasonable restrictions take Ohio back to the days when women had to seek risky back-room abortions or cross state lines to have the procedure.
State lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich overreached last year by requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals. Hiding behind spurious claims of concern for women’s safety, their larger agenda was to shutter as many providers as possible. Many hospitals would avoid potential political fallout by refusing such a partnership. But the agreements were clearly unnecessary. Under federal law, no local hospital can refuse to treat a patient in an emergency.
Kellie Copeland, NARAL Ohio executive director, rightly noted in a statement that the transfer agreements have nothing to do with patient safety and everything to do with closing abortion clinics. If the last abortion clinic in Toledo closes, she warned, women may be forced to resort to drastic measures.
Removing access to abortion is an appalling and regressive blow to women’s reproductive rights, as well as their ability to undergo medical procedures in an accessible and affordable manner.
It’s up to Mr. Himes to make it right.