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The fate of Toledo’s only remaining abortion clinic could hinge on a pact with the University of Michigan Health System to treat any patient who may incur complications during an abortion.
UM hospital officials confirmed Thursday that an emergency-care transfer agreement with Capital Care Clinic was signed Jan. 20.
“We are a regional system, and we do consider Toledo to be part of our service area,” said the hospital’s chief communications officer, Denise Gray-Felder.
Capital Care’s owner Terrie Hubbard approached the Michigan hospital after the abortion clinic’s license was revoked by the Ohio Department of Health. The clinic was ordered to shut down unless it could secure an agreement with a hospital.
Ms. Hubbard argued at a state hearing Wednesday the deal with the Ann Arbor hospital meets a state mandate that the clinic have an arrangement with a “local” hospital.
A provision written into Ohio’s two-year budget created a law which required a transfer agreement as a condition for a license. Previously, that had been only a department rule.
State lawmakers also enacted a requirement that hospitals partnering with abortion clinics be “local,” a term that was not defined in the law.
“We believe that we are in full compliance with the laws of the state of Ohio. We obviously would not sign an agreement that we felt in any way that was noncompliant,” the UM hospital spokesman said.
Ohio anti-abortion rights activists, however, question how a hospital 53 miles from Toledo can be considered “local.”
Much of the discussion at the state hearing centered on responding to an emergency within 30 minutes. On a good day, it would take at least 53 minutes to transfer a patient from Toledo to Ann Arbor, said Kayla Smith of Ohio Right to Life.
“Ms. Hubbard said she has an agreement with an helicopter service in Licking County and that’s just ridiculous. A helicopter would have to travel from two hours away to take a patient to a hospital out of state when there are between seven to 10 hospitals in the Toledo region,” she said.
Capital Care had a one-year deal in place with the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio, but the hospital opted not to renew it as of last July 31. No private hospital in the region was willing to take its place.
Ms. Hubbard said she’s never had to make such a transfer in the four years she’s owned the facility and the eight years before that, when she worked there as a registered nurse.
“This is not an argument about public safety. This is a gotcha game that the Kasich administration has set up to close clinics,” said Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice.
She said hospitals have a legal obligation not to turn away patients from emergency rooms. “They will call 911 and the patient will be taken to a hospital in Toledo, and they will treat that patient,” she said.
The health department is expected to make the final decision on Capital Care clinic sometime in June.
Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor Marlene Harris-Taylor at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6091.