The Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments next week over the constitutionality of a state law that requires abortion clinics line up patient transfer agreements with local hospitals.
Capital Care Network of Toledo, an abortion clinic, brought the legal challenge after the state decided its transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor — 52 miles away — didn’t qualify as “local.”
For more than 20 years, Ohio has required that ambulatory surgical facilities, which provide outpatient surgery, to have written transfer agreements with hospitals in case of emergencies.
Since 1996, this has been required by administrative rule but in 2013, state lawmakers embedded it into state statute, added the word “local,” and barred publicly owned hospitals from providing such agreements. Capital Care Network lost its agreement with University of Toledo Hospital, a public facility, and made arrangements with University of Michigan. The Ohio Department of Health, however, determined that Ann Arbor doesn’t qualify as local and revoked the clinic’s license.
Two lower courts ruled Ohio’s law unconstitutional for multiple reasons, including that it was tagged onto the state budget bill, which violates the Ohio Constitution’s single-subject rule; it violated due process protections; and it placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to access an abortion.
The state argues that the courts improperly reviewed the constitutionality of the laws, rather than look at it whether the Ohio Department of Health’s order to revoke the clinic’s license was proper.
In June 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws in Texas that required doctors performing abortions maintain admitting privileges at a hospital and clinics meet certain surgical center requirements. The high court decided those mandates placed an unconstitutional undue burden on women seeking abortions.
Capital Care, which is the only abortion clinic in northwest Ohio, argues that the transfer agreements are unnecessary because federal law requires hospitals to treat emergency patients.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the Ohio Supreme Court should side with the lower courts. “They must reject Kasich’s agenda to strip Ohioans of their reproductive rights. They cannot close the clinics we turn to for care.”
Ohio and Texas are considered key battleground states in abortion policy. Since Ohio Gov. John Kasich took office in January 2011, more than 18 new abortion restrictions have been put in place. With those restrictions, seven of 16 abortion clinics have shut their doors over the past several years.