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Published: 4/22/2013 - Updated: 12 months ago

University of Toledo president sought to maintain 'neutrality' in abortion clinics issue

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The president of the University of Toledo ended his institution’s transfer agreement discussions with two abortion clinics to preserve the university’s “neutrality” on the issue of abortion, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said today in his first public comment on the abortion clinic issue.

“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 said. “Therefore when it became clear to me that some folk 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 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 them in jeopardy.

It has heartened abortion-rights opponents who say taxpayer-funded entities should have no association with abortion clinics.

The university president emphasized that the lack of a transfer agreement doesn't mean the hospital 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, strongly disagreed with Dr. Jacobs’ stance and said more than 260 medical students and a few physicians have signed a petition protesting the stance as anti-choice..

“This is absolutely not a neutral stance. It is a very anti-choice statement and action. His actions are taking away a woman’s right to choose in Toledo. 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.

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.

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 was also starting in on negotiations with Center for Choice, a downtown Toledo abortion clinic.

Dr. Jacobs announced he would not renew the Capital Care agreement and ended negotiations on the Center for Choice agreement after the statewide anti-abortion lobbying group, Ohio Right to Life, and state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), who is opposed to legal abortion, criticized the arrangement in a news conference.

Mr. Wachtmann has since introduced legislation that he may seek to include in the biennial budget bill to prohibit public hospitals from signing transfer agreements.

Dr. Jacobs stressed Monday that the hospital would continue to provide care without qualification to any women who experience medical complications at Capital Care Network or anywhere else.

He also 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," Dr. Jacobs said.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said ProMedica could provide the transfer agreement, but said a public-supported institution should stay "neutral."

"We want to thank him for having the university remain neutral in this issue. 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."

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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