Ohio notifies local abortion clinic license could be revoked without a hospital transfer agreement

UTMC canceled transfer agreement with Center for Choice


A Toledo abortion clinic has been notified that its license could be revoked because it lacks a transfer agreement from a full-service hospital, The Blade learned today.

Dr. Theodore Wymyslo, Ohio Director of Health, notified the Center for Choice April 24 that it has 30 days to request a hearing on his proposal to revoke the clinic's license.

State health department regulations require all ambulatory surgical facilities in Ohio, including abortion clinics, to have a transfer agreement with a hospital willing to accept patients who experience complications that an outpatient facility can't handle. None of Toledo's three hospital systems - University of Toledo Medical Center, ProMedica, and Mercy - has agreed to sign such an agreement with Center for Choice, though all have said they would accept any patient needing care, with or without a written agreement.

Sue Postal, director and owner of the downtown Center for Choice, confirmed she got the license revocation notice and said she will apply for a hearing. Her options, she said, are to obtain a transfer agreement, obtain a "variance," or a waiver as allowed under the state health regulations, or shut down.

Center for Choice's last transfer agreement was with ProMedica. Neither Ms. Postal nor ProMedica would discuss why that agreement is no longer in effect or when it ended.

According to a recent inspection of Center for Choice, the last transfer agreement was approved in 2008 and was automatically renewed annually but ended in 2010 when the clinic received a letter of termination.

Citing its lack of a transfer agreement, the anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life released the inspection report today and said that information shows the center has been operating in a "callous disregard for Ohio health law." Its statement comes about a month after the group attacked the University of Toledo for having signed a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network abortion clinic in West Toledo.

"It's a crime that Center for Choice has performed illegal abortions for the last two years, jeopardizing women for the sake of profit, but we take hope in the fact that they will cease taking innocent human life," said Mike Gonidakis, president of the Columbus-based lobbying organization.

Ms. Postal was in negotiations on an agreement with the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio. But on April 4, UT President Lloyd Jacobs notified Center for Choice that he was terminating negotiations.

Dr. Jacobs' announcement came after Ohio Right to Life and state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) blasted the university's transfer agreement with Capital Care Network. Mr. Wachtmann said he would try to insert an amendment in the budget bill, now awaiting action in the state Senate, to prohibit state-supported hospitals from signing transfer agreements with abortion clinics.

Dr. Jacobs said last week that he withdrew from negotiations with Center for Choice and decided to terminate UT's agreement with Capital Care Network when the current agreement expires July 31 to maintain the university's neutrality in the controversial issue.

Critics, including medical students, obstetric and gynecology faculty, and law faculty, have criticized his stance as anti-choice and harmful to women's health because the clinics need a transfer agreement in order to exist.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said Ohio Right to Life "bullied" UT to rescind the agreements.

A group of law professors from around the state wrote April 24 to Dr. Jacobs saying that, "UT acted under pressure from a lobbying group and politicians whose explicit purpose was to shut down abortion care in Toledo.

"What the Constitution clearly prohibits UT from doing is acting with the purpose of eliminating abortion care. That was exactly the purpose of [Ohio Right to Life's] lobbying, to which UT acquiesced," the law professors' letter stated.