Area abortion clinic argues for waiver

Dayton’s lone abortion provider argued it has a legal plan to deal with emergencies during a Tuesday hearing at the Ohio Department of Health in Columbus.

A 2013 Ohio licensing law mandates that ambulatory surgical facilities (ASFs) have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies.

Women’s Med Center in Kettering has twice been turned down for a waiver to the regulation by Ohio Health Director Richard Hodges. The clinic says it has three backup doctors available, all on-call physicians with admitting privileges to Miami Valley Hospital.

The law added into the 2013 budget bill has contributed to the closure of other Ohio clinics and in 2014 led a Sharonville facility to stop performing abortions.

“The written transfer agreement is a piece of paper with a hospital,” said Women’s Med attorney Jennifer Branch, as quoted by the Associated Press. “It’s just not a necessity to protect a patient’s health and the clinic has been operating just fine without one for the last 14 years.”

Hodges wrote in a letter responding to the center’s 2014 request for an exemption that the clinic’s plan did not offer the same protection “as it does not meet the department’s expectation for 24/7 back-up coverage and uninterrupted continuity of care …”

The independent hearing examiner, Mt. Vernon attorney William Kepko, listened to both sides on Tuesday. Kepko told the Associated Press he will try to get his recommendation to Hodges as soon as possible.

Health Department spokeswoman Melanie Amato told the AP there is no deadline for the examiner’s report to be sent to Hodges, who will make the final determination. A federal judge ruled the clinic can stay open during the appeal process.

Meanwhile, more briefs supporting the University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s motion to dismiss were filed this week in the case involving Women’s Med and Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati.

The abortion clinics have sued Hodges and the hospital over the transfer issue.

The Cincinnati hospital says it should be dismissed from the suit because it is just following the law by denying the transfer orders. The only way they claim they should be involved is if the judge declares the law unconstitutional and they continue to deny the transfer orders based on the judicially confirmed unconstitutional law.

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