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Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, said he was motivated by a desire to keep his public institution neutral on the issue of abortion rights when he canceled the university’s involvement in transfer agreements with two area abortion clinics.
“I believe a state-run institution like this one should not take a side in what is actually a national debate, ranging from the highest levels of government to our students’ discussion,” Dr. Jacobs told The Blade Monday during his first public comments on the issue. “Therefore, when it became clear to me that some folks perceived, correctly or incorrectly, that we had taken a stance I moved to what I believe is the best neutral position."
Dr. Jacobs’ decision this month to end an agreement with one abortion clinic when it expires July 31 and end negotiations with a second clinic has outraged abortion-rights supporters, who say transfer agreements are required by law and Dr. Jacobs’ refusal to extend the agreement puts the clinics in jeopardy.
But his action has pleased abortion-rights opponents who say taxpayer-funded entities should have no association with abortion clinics.
The university president said that the lack of a transfer agreement doesn't mean the University of Toledo Medical Center won't treat patients experiencing complications at the clinics.
“We will take care of any patient, anytime, that comes to our hospital. We make no provision where people come from, what kind of outpatient clinic,” Dr. Jacobs said. He said the hospital accepts more than 500 transfers for surgical complications a year.
Carolyn Payne, a second-year medical student from the Akron area and president of the University of Toledo Medical Students for Choice chapter, said more than 260 medical students and some physicians have signed a petition protesting the move.
“This is absolutely not a neutral stance. It is absolutely an anti-choice statement and action. His actions are taking away a woman’s right to choice in northwest Ohio and he has no right to do that. This is a legal medical procedure in the United States. His actions directly will result in the shutting down of these clinics,” Ms. Payne said.
She said the university needs the Center for Choice abortion clinic in order to maintain its obstetrics and gynecology accreditation, which requires that students have the opportunity to train in an abortion clinic.
Ms. Payne said a group of students has scheduled a meeting Friday afternoon with Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor and vice president for biosciences and health affairs at UTMC, the former Medical College of Ohio, to discuss its concerns about the transfer agreement.
A transfer agreement doesn’t cost either side anything, and it only commits a hospital to do what it is already required to do under its nonprofit status. Toledo has two other hospital systems that could sign the agreements, but neither has expressed a willingness to do so.
UT signed a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network abortion clinic on West Sylvania Avenue last year after the clinic, which performed more than 1,000 abortions in the last reported 12-month period, was threatened by the state with revocation of its license and was fined $25,000. The university also was starting negotiations with Center for Choice, a downtown Toledo abortion clinic.
Dr. Jacobs announced April 4 he would not renew the Capital Care agreement and ended negotiations with Center for Choice after the statewide anti-abortion lobbying group Ohio Right to Life and state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) criticized the arrangement in a news conference on March 25. Mr. Wachtmann has introduced legislation to prohibit public hospitals from signing transfer agreements.
Dr. Jacobs defended the university’s practice of allowing obstetrics and gynecological medical residents to work in abortion clinics as required for the teaching hospital’s accreditation.
“We take no stance on the public debate. However, well-trained obstetrics and gynecological physicians are training according to the requirements of the [accrediting agency]. So I don’t perceive there’s a conflict there,” he said.
He said if the clinics have exhausted all their other options without the university’s signature on a transfer agreement, “it would cause me to think about it,” he said.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, thanked Dr. Jacobs for his decision.
“At no point should we have a taxpayer-funded institution taking sides. If these abortion clinics want to operate in their current facilities, they’ll have to enter into a transfer agreement with another facility up there,” he said.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.