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The Ohio Department of Health has issued an order to revoke the license of Toledo’s only remaining abortion clinic effective Aug. 12.
Interim Director of Health Lance Himes signed the adjudication order on Tuesday, “refusing to renew and revoking” the health-care facility license of Capital Care Network. The West Sylvania Avenue clinic has 15 days after the mailing of the notice to file an appeal and request that a court stay the order pending that appeal.
Mr. Himes’ decision follows a recommendation from a state hearing examiner in June that the clinic be shuttered because it does not hold a valid emergency-care agreement with a local hospital, a requirement of state law.
RELATED CONTENT: Read the Ohio Department of Health‘s full order.
The abortion clinic entered into an agreement in January with the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor — more than 50 miles away — to provide emergency care in case of complications with its patients.
“We will have to close as a surgery center if we do not get a stay from the courts,” Capital Care owner Terry Hubbard said.
Ms. Hubbard said she is not giving up and for now has the financing to fight the state ruling in court.
The two-year state budget passed last year cemented in law what had previously been an administrative rule within the health department requiring ambulatory surgical centers to have agreements with hospitals to transfer patients if complications arise.
Lawmakers then went a step further by requiring that agreement to be with a “local” hospital without defining what that meant.
The University of Toledo Medical Center chose not to renew its agreement with Capital Care as of July 31, 2013. The budget later prohibited public hospitals like UTMC, the former Medical College of Ohio, from entering into such agreements.
The clinic struggled for months to find someone willing to take its place before inking a deal with UMHS. The agreement with the Ann Arbor hospital, however, stated it would not be responsible for transportating patients. The clinic was prepared to pay for helicopter transports, if necessary.
Although she has already reached out to hospitals in a 30-mile radius of Toledo seeking a transfer agreement, she will begin the process again starting today.
“Maybe now a hospital will have a little more empathy now that they know we will have to close and there won’t be a clinic for women in Toledo,” Ms. Hubbard said.
“I was disappointed that the director revoked the license because the clinic had a transfer agreement. We will appeal that decision and ask the court to let the clinic stay open during the appeal,” said the clinic’s attorney Jennifer Branch.
Ms. Branch also questioned why officials waited nearly a day and half after the ruling was reached to send the paperwork.
“We only have 15 days to file the appeal so by waiting until 4:30 the following day took two days away from my time to prepare the appeal,” she said.
The department of health seems to be making decisions that are not based on medical or health care, but are based on politics, she said.
“I think there is going to be a lot of unwanted pregnancy in Toledo if we are forced to close — not all women can travel,” Ms. Hubbard said.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the decision could mean that Toledo women will have to travel across state lines or to clinics in Cleveland or Columbus to have an abortion.
Ohio has two abortion providers in Cleveland, one in Akron, three in Columbus, one in Dayton, and two in Cincinnati, though one there is in jeopardy, she said.
“If you don’t have a car, and you are trying to rely on a bus the logistics are impossible and frankly these medically unnecessary regulations were written because they knew that certain women would be unable to jump through all the hoops that the state would put in front of them,” she said.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, praised the ruling and criticized the clinic’s decision to operate without a transfer agreement.
“These are serious matters that involve women’s health,” he said. “For over a year they’ve operated without a transfer agreement, and that’s illegal.”
While Capital Care continues its court fight, another Toledo abortion clinic was forced to close last year when it could not find a local hospital with which to create a transfer agreement. Carol Dunn, one of the former owners of the Center for Choice, said the health department’s decision likely did not reflect how the community feels about abortion.
“This is not the community,” she said. “This is the state legislature, and its mostly Republican. This is a war on women.”
Staff writer Marissa Medansky contributed to this report.