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Published: Friday, 4/5/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

TRANSFER AGREEMENTS

UT tells clinics it is dropping abortion pacts

Cancellation could affect local services for women

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
The move by UT President Lloyd Jacobs, left, elated Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. The move by UT President Lloyd Jacobs, left, elated Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.
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The University of Toledo Medical Center on Thursday notified two area abortion clinics that it would terminate contracts with them one week after a state lawmaker and a group opposed to abortion rights called the pacts illegal.

The development was a victory for Ohio Right to Life, which held a news conference last month on the campus of the medical center, the former Medical College of Ohio, to condemn the creation of a transfer agreement between Capital Care Network in West Toledo and the university medical center. After the news conference, Ohio Right to Life became aware that UT was in negotiations for a transfer agreement with Center for Choice abortion clinic in Toledo.

A lobbying group favoring abortion rights said the action was dangerous and could lead to the shutdown of abortion services in Toledo.

In letters dated Thursday, UT President Lloyd Jacobs notified Capital Care Network that it will not renew the one-year transfer agreement when it expires on July 31 and informed Center for Choice that UT was terminating negotiations on a transfer agreement. The two letters provide no explanation for ending the pacts. State law requires all “ambulatory surgical facilities” to have agreements in place to provide for hospital treatment for patients not available on the premises in case of complications.

In his letter to Capital Care Network, Dr. Jacobs wrote, “Should Ohio law affect the validity of this transfer agreement, the University of Toledo may be required to terminate this transfer agreement sooner.”

“We respectfully thank University of Toledo’s President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs for his leadership and compassion which has resulted in the right outcome for pro-life taxpayers as well as faculty, staff, students and alumni. We couldn’t be happier with this outcome and believe that the greater good for this region has been served,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, which is opposed to legal abortion except to save the life of the mother.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said Mr. Gonidakis “bullied the University of Toledo Medical Center into canceling these transfer agreements.”

She noted that Mr. Gonidakis was appointed by Gov. John Kasich to the State Medical Board of Ohio in November, 2012.

“If other transfer agreements cannot be secured, these clinics may be forced to close. Closing legal abortion clinics is not going to stop women from having abortions; it will just make them extremely dangerous. Why is an organization run by a member of the State Medical Board putting the lives of women at risk by attacking hospitals and legally operating medical facilities in our state?” Ms. Copeland said.

Mr. Gonidakis said the 12-member medical board rules on licenses of doctors, nurse-practitioners, and massage therapists and does not set policy or write legislation.

Ms. Copeland said it’s possible that the two abortion clinics would have to shut down if they can’t find a hospital with which to have a transfer agreement.

“There’s the possibility they could get a transfer agreement somewhere else. Other clinics in the past have gotten waivers, but given that Mike Gonidakis is on the state medical board he’ll find a way to block that,” Ms. Copeland said. “I think that he wields power that he shouldn’t.”

She said no clinic has been forced to close its doors in Ohio because it didn’t have a transfer agreement. “This is a new line of attack,” Ms. Copeland said.

Last year, the state Department of Health fined Capital Care $25,000 and threatened to suspend its license unless it obtained the required transfer agreement. The shutdown threat was canceled after Capital Care signed an agreement with UTMC in August, 2012.

Ohio Right to Life and state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) held a news conference on March 25 to object to the contract as a violation of the state ban on state-funded entities supporting abortion. Mr. Wachtmann said he intended to introduce legislation to make it explicit in state law that state-funded hospitals may not engage in transfer agreements with abortion clinics.

Mr. Gonidakis said that without a transfer agreement, there can’t be an abortion clinic.

He said the absence of an agreement doesn’t mean women experiencing complications in an abortion clinic won’t be treated at UTMC. He said all hospitals, to maintain their nonprofit status, are required to take any patient who comes to the emergency room.

“We’re going to continue to investigate whether other university hospitals have transfer agreements. It’s our goal to see this legislation through working closely with state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann so we can make sure the conscience rights of Ohio’s taxpayers aren’t being abused,” Mr. Gonidakis said.

Jon Strunk, a University of Toledo spokesman, would not comment to The Blade, and Dr. Jacobs could not be reached for comment. Capital Care Network did not return a call for comment.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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