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Hospital allows students to train at abortion clinic

Center for Choice may receive transfer pact from ProMedica

Although it is refusing to sign a medical transfer agreement with two local abortion clinics, the University of Toledo Medical Center is allowing its medical students to work at the Center for Choice abortion clinic, something that is required for the university’s obstetrician-gynecologist program to maintain its accreditation, the university confirmed this week.

And ProMedica has issued a statement that appeared to open the door to establishing a transfer agreement, which is required by state law for abortion clinics to maintain their license.

“ProMedica Toledo Hospital doesn’t perform elective abortions or have any transfer agreements. However, with or without a transfer agreement, we will perform the necessary treatment of women who run into medical complications following an abortion procedure. With that said, given recent developments that may impact these clinics, we will continue to assess the broader community needs,” ProMedica spokesman Tedra White said.

University President Lloyd Jacobs last week notified Center for Choice that the university was terminating negotiations on a new transfer agreement a week after the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life and state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) criticized the arrangement as potentially illegal.

Dr. Jacobs, who faced criticism that he had caved under pressure from the anti-abortion groups, also informed the Toledo Women’s Center abortion clinic in West Toledo, also known as Capital Care Network, that a transfer agreement now in effect would not be renewed when it expires on July 31.

The move leaves the two clinics potentially unable to stay in business because state Department of Health regulations require all ambulatory surgical facilities in Ohio to have a transfer agreement as a condition of their license.

The existing transfer agreement agreement between the Toledo Women’s Center and UT is a two-page document in which the university hospital agrees to accept patients from the Toledo Women’s Center in an emergency, something the university has said it and every other nonprofit hospital would do anyway, with or without a written agreement.

The university said exposure to the abortion clinic by its medical residents is a requirement for accreditation of its medical school by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education of all obstetrics and gynecology residency programs in the nation.

“The residents are able to opt out. We are required to offer that,” UT spokesman Jonathan Strunk said.

Residents are medical doctors newly graduated from the medical school, which formerly was the Medical College of Ohio.

Under the accreditation requirement, no medical college program can be required to provide training in abortions, and no resident with a religious or moral objection could be required to perform an abortion.

Otherwise, the requirements say that “access to experience with induced abortion must be part of residency education,” and that experience with management of complications of abortion must be provided to all residents.

Sue Postal, owner and director of the Center for Choice, confirmed that doctors in training are sometimes sent to the Center for Choice, located near downtown Toledo.

“What they do is learn everything, from the laws that affect abortion to the information that we share with patients, and then work with the physicians on the medical care they do. They have the right to see and do as much as they want and they are comfortable with,” Ms. Postal said. She said there is no cost to the university, and that the center also hosts visiting students of social work and nursing. She estimated 10 to 15 students come to the clinic annually.

Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life based in Columbus, was critical both of ProMedica’s possible willingness to provide the two clinics with a transfer agreement and with UTMC’s allowing its medical residents to conduct part of their training in an abortion clinic.

“What is a young mind who is training to help people going to learn in an abortion clinic? It seems to me that a university hospital and an institution of higher learning should stay out of the abortion issue altogether,” Mr. Gonidakis said.

Of ProMedica’s involvement, he said, “You would think their goal would be to save lives, not in support of ending lives.”

Dr. Jacobs has not returned calls from The Blade seeking an explanation for terminating the university’s transfer agreements with the two clinics. He is in India this week attending a graduation of engineering and masters of business administration students from two UT programs based there.

William Koester, chairman of the UT board of trustees, refused to state the university’s reasons for not wanting to maintain a transfer agreement with the two abortion clinics. “We delegate our authority to operate the university to the president,” Mr. Koester said earlier in the week. “This is a decision the president has made, and the president has very strong support from the board of trustees.”

Both the Center for Choice and Toledo Women’s Center said they previously had agreements with Toledo Hospital, operated by ProMedica, but declined to say when they had those agreements and why they ended.

Transfer agreements have been required for all ambulatory surgical facilities since 1996. Mr. Wachtmann said he plans to introduce legislation making such agreements between a state-funded hospital and an abortion clinic illegal.

Contact Tom Troy at: or 419-724-6058.

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