The Ohio Department of Health has begun the process of pulling the license from Center for Choice, a Toledo, Ohio, abortion provider, citing the fact that it does not have a transfer agreement with a local hospital. Without intercession, the clinic will have its license revoked, and could be subject to $25,000 in fines for operating without an active transfer agreement. The announcement comes within weeks of the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) announcing that it suspended transfer agreement negotiations with the Center for Choice and is not renewing its agreement with the city’s only other provider because of its desire to remain “neutral” in the abortion debate.
Opponents of the university’s decision argue that by pulling out of negotiations, the school took a side, whether it intended to or not. “There is no reason that [UTMC] should not provide care to anyone, regardless of the circumstances that they need medical attention,” College Democrats Membership Director Kaitlyn Filzer told the Toledo Blade. College Democrats helped organize students to protest the move. “We understand that the university does not want to take a position on the contentious issue of abortion; however, we feel that by refusing to enter these contracts, the university is doing exactly that.”
Pressure on UTMC to stop offering transfer agreements has mounted since Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, began serving on the state’s medical board after the 2012 election. Ohio state law requires that clinics that offer abortions have transfer agreements in place with local hospitals in order to operate, a requirement that Center for Choice had not adhered to since a 2010 agreement with ProMedica wasn’t renewed. ProMedica, UTMC, and Mercy Health Systems, a Catholic hospital, are the only three hospitals in the area that could offer a transfer agreement to the clinics in question. All hospitals note that they would accept patients if they showed up in the emergency room because of a complication. Even Gonidakis admits that women would see no difference in follow-up care if an agreement existed or didn’t, telling the Toledo Blade that “the lack of a transfer agreement won’t harm any women because all nonprofit hospitals must accept any patients who show up in the emergency room.”
If the hospitals would take in emergency patients without a transfer agreement, as even Gonidakis says is true, then the argument that such agreements exist to supplement patient safety doesn’t pan out; the true motive is to close the clinics in any way possible. Gonidakis confirms this in an interview with LifeNews.com: “It’s a crime that Center for Choice has performed illegal abortions for the last two years, jeopardizing women for the sake of profit, but we take hope in the fact that they will cease taking innocent human life.”
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Center for Choice has until May 24 to request a hearing over its license revocation. The clinic could seek out a variance to allow it to continue providing services while it tries to arrange another transfer agreement, or it could stop offering services, leaving Capital Care Network the only provider in the city. However, Capital Care Network has already been informed that UTMC will let its current agreement lapse in July, putting that provider in a similar situation in a few months.