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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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Judge strikes down Ohio law that could have closed Toledo’s last abortion facility

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

COLUMBUS, OH, June 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – On Friday, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart struck down an Ohio law that could have closed Toledo's last abortion facility.

Since the law was part of a larger bill, Duhart ruled that the law violated the state's “single-subject rule.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine had taken measures last week to close Toledo's last abortion facility.

DeWine filed a motion in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to stop a year-long delay in closing Capital Care Network of Toledo. Capital Care was ordered closed by the Ohio Department of Health because it does not have a local hospital affiliation for its patients.

At issue is the term, "local." Two pro-life laws were passed by Republican legislators required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and disallowed taxpayer-funded hospitals from granting admitting privileges to abortionists. 

Capital Care of Toledo contracted with the University of Michigan's hospital in Ann Arbor, more than 50 miles away and across the state line.

A hearing examiner ruled a year ago that that did not meet the definition of "local," because in cases of a botched abortion, the woman needs care immediately.

Proponents say this is in order to save women's lives, both for ambulatory access and for that access to be close, when every minute counts. Just last March, Lakisha Wilson, a 22-year-old healthy woman, bled to death from a botched abortion in Cleveland.

Assistant Ohio Attorney General Lyndsay Nash explained, “Capital Care Network’s operator testified that it would take their transportation provider approximately an hour to show up, even to begin to transport a patient to this far removed hospital, and that the actual transport itself would take another 15 to 20 minutes, if possible, to effect by helicopter. Such a lengthy delay would frustrate the purposes of having a transfer agreement with a local hospital, which is to provide immediate care."

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Capital Care owner Terrie Hubbard argues that in a true emergency, she would call 911 and have the patient taken directly to the nearest emergency room, regardless of the transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Hospital. She says that she would only use the transfer agreement in non-life-threatening situations.

But Nash said that defeats the entire purpose of a transfer agreement, which is designed to ensure continuity and quality of care for women who suffer complications during abortions.

“Calling a helicopter from Licking County” in eastern Ohio “to pick up a patient in Toledo, Ohio, and transfer her over 50 miles to Ann Arbor, Michigan, is not a reasonable or responsible plan to care for patients needing emergency hospital care,” Nash replied.

Despite the state ordering it closed and despite not having truly local ambulatory service, Capital Care of Toledo was allowed by a judge to continue aborting children over the past year, until their dispute with the state Department of Health is resolved in court.

Attorney General DeWine's action seeks to expedite the closure of Capital Care. Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis commented, "It's unconscionable that this abortion clinic has been operating illegally for nearly a year now. This order has been sitting on a judge's desk for far too long while innocent babies die and women are endangered."

Gonidakis praised DeWine's pro-life action. "We sincerely thank Mike DeWine for taking the lead by attempting to put an end to these delay tactics." He expressed hope that the whole matter would be resolved soon. "The judicial branch should expedite this matter, especially because innocent human lives are on the line."

"If these abortion clinics really cared about women's health, they wouldn't attempt to skirt the most basic health and safety standards that every other ambulatory surgical facility in the state abides by," Gonidakis said. "Ohio Right to Life thanks Attorney General DeWine's passion for justice, women's health and a focused interest in protecting human lives."

DeWine's action is considered a token concession to pro-lifers, because the "local" dispute was expected to be resolved by court in the next month. But many conservatives were angered when Republicans removed a pro-life provision in the proposed state budget which would legally clarify "local" hospital as being within 30 miles of an abortion business. That provision, if kept in the budget, would have forced Capital Care of Toledo to either get local hospital affiliation or close. It also would have affected abortion facilities throughout the state.

Republicans agreed to take out the pro-life provision after a Cleveland Democrat, Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cuyahoga, agreed to vote for the GOP-authored budget. Republicans did not need Williams' vote, but her vote allowed them to say their budget has bipartisan support –a popular selling point in politics.

Sen. Williams said Republicans told her that they would accept her changes to the budget --including taking out the pro-life provision-- in exchange for her "yes" vote. Senate President Keith Faber, R-Mercer, disputed that, saying that Williams simply offered "some relatively minor changes" that "we thought were pretty good."

Several politicians who claim to be pro-life actually killed the life-saving provision. Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, in action that recalls his disallowing the pro-life Heartbeat Bill over the past two years, took the provision out of the budget.

Upon hearing of the provision being taken out of the budget, Warren County Right to Life commented, "Keith Faber and Ohio Senate Republicans removed safety restrictions on abortion clinic transfer agreements from the new budget. They did this in exchange for one Democrat vote --which they didn't even need!"

Warren County Right to Life concluded, "Keith Faber did abortion clinics a favor, and sold out unborn babies for a single Democrat vote, so he could claim 'bipartisan support' for the budget. This puts women's lives at risk."

Besides taking away the pro-life provision defining a local hospital as within 30 miles, Sen. Williams added several items to the state budget. Among her added pork is $1 million for Cuyahoga County's work development and food stamp program, $200,000 for a Cleveland senior housing development, and keeping an old quota law which requires state construction companies working in Cleveland to hire 20% local workers, which construction companies say makes them less competitive with out-of-state companies that don't have to make the quota.

The budget bill passed the senate by a vote of 23-10, including the "yes" vote from the lone Democrat Williams.

A legislative conference committee has the budget next, and is expected to place a final budget plan on Gov. John Kasich's desk by the state's June 30 budget deadline.

DeWine's latest action does not affect abortion businesses in Dayton or Cincinnati. Cincinnati's Planned Parenthood has obtained an "exception" to state law requiring patient-transfer contracts; Dayton's Women's Med is awaiting a renewal of its exception.

Since the start of 2013, Ohio's abortion facilities have seen their numbers dwindle from 14 to 8, largely due to pro-life laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

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