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Published: Wednesday, 6/5/2013

Budget plan targets abortion clinics

Ohio-funded hospitals would be barred from making transfer pacts

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Publicly funded hospitals would be forbidden from entering into transfer agreements with abortion clinics under language expected to be added today to Ohio’s proposed two-year budget.

The language was unveiled Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee. It would render moot any reconsideration by the University of Toledo of its recent decisions not to renew its agreement with West Toledo’s Capital Care Network set to expire on July 31 and to halt negotiations for a new agreement with downtown’s Center for Choice.

“It adds another barrier for clinics and is clearly targeted to the Toledo situation…,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “What this provision would do is remove the ability of the University of Toledo Medical Center to provide that transfer agreement. President [Lloyd] Jacobs had said that, if the clinic didn’t have any other options, he would reconsider that decision.”

The two Toledo clinics are regulated by the state as ambulatory surgical centers that must have written agreements in place with a local hospital to handle potential emergency medical situations.

Under the amendment, a transfer agreement could not be with a hospital that receives public funds or with a physician who’s been granted privileges at a public hospital. The prohibition would not apply to ambulatory surgical centers that do not perform abortions.

“If my tax dollars or your tax dollars pay for the hospital, we have to protect our conscientious right not to have these hospitals enter into transfer agreements with facilities as an indirect way to pay for [abortions],” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.

He said the language would not affect an abortion clinic’s ability to enter into such agreements with private hospitals. Private hospital systems ProMedica and Mercy have refused to enter agreements with Toledo’s two clinics.

“If any state tried to pass a law prohibiting all transfer agreements, it would lose in court,” Mr. Gonidakis said. “What this does is say it cannot be with taxpayer-funded hospitals.”

Dr. Jacobs said he was seeking to keep the university from appearing to take sides in the divisive national debate about abortion. Abortion opponents hailed the move, but critics said his decisions would force both clinics to close.

On April 24, Dr. Theodore Wymyslo, state health director, notified Center for Choice he would revoke its license without a transfer agreement in place. The clinic has requested an appeal hearing.

Abortion-rights advocates were already fighting a related amendment added by Senate Republicans to the proposed budget last week that would write into law the transfer agreement requirement that currently exists in Department of Health regulations.

That amendment would also give the state director of health broader authority to revoke a previously approved variance of that regulation or to reject a request for a new one.

Although the language has yet to clear Senate committee, Ms. Copeland is already turning her focus to the GOP governor.

“Ultimately, this is going to land in Gov. Kasich’s lap,” she said. “Is it more important to kowtow to conservatives in his party or more important to protect women’s health?”

Senate Republicans have also decided not to remove a controversial House amendment that places Planned Parenthood at the end of the line behind government health centers and others offering comprehensive primary and preventive health care when it comes to distributing federal family-planning money.

The finance committee unveiled numerous additional changes to the budget that it expects to approve today. The full Senate will take up the revised budget on Thursday. A final budget must reach Mr. Kasich’s desk by June 30.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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