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A Second Toledo Abortion Clinic Could Close Under New Restrictions

Ohio's latest attempt to curb abortions appears to have had its first casualty. An abortion clinic in Toledo blames the new law for its closure last month. The only other clinic in the Northwest Ohio city could close by the end of this month. Last month the parking lot at Toledo’s Center for Choice was busy with cars; inside, women talked and waited their turn with the doctor. When we visited a couple weeks ago the parking lot was empty. Inside, Sue Postal, the Center’s former director, took a break from cleaning equipment and packing records. "We have had and met the most wonderful people here. Men women, mom’s dad’s, aunts uncles. I would say that I feel like I have a whole new group of friends out there somewhere. They may not think of me all the time but I think there’s a place in their brain that I sit," says Postal. This clinic performed nearly 15 hundred abortions a year. Now, access to abortion in Toledo will be much more limited. “It’s a blatant attempt to make abortion inaccessible and not one piece of this legislation doesn’t necessarily make it safer for women," says Postal. Ohio is the first state to pass a law that specifically bans publicly supported hospitals from having formal contracts with abortion clinics. Clinics in Ohio and 8 other states are required to have these contracts, or “transfer agreements,â€? in case of emergencies. They enable ready transfer of an abortion patient to a hospital should the need arise…although it very rarely does, according to abortion rights groups. The new law created a kind of “catch 22â€? Toledo’s Center for Choice. It has to have a transfer agreement but could no longer do so with the University of Toledo Medical Center because it gets some state aid. The two other local, private hospitals - one of which is Catholic - aren’t interested in contracts with abortion clinics. “We have laws in the state of Ohio that indicate our state tax dollars cannot pay for abortion. And what we saw through an investigation in public record’s request that the University of Toledo in their hospital had a transfer agreement with an abortion agreement up in the Toledo area. And as prolife taxpayers we believe our conscious rights were being trampled on because it was an indirect way of paying for abortion," says Gonidakis. Gonidakis is President of Ohio Right to Life. He helped Ohio lawmakers write the unique anti-abortion nuance that got inserted into the state budget. Gonidakis says his group’s strategy on this new law and past ones is working - and saving lives. “We are at the lowest level of abortions in our state’s history because we take this incremental approach," Gonidakis says. In the past decade, the number of abortions performed in Ohio has dropped 34 percent. There are several reasons for the decline, including more access to birth control and education, as well as more restrictions. The Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive rights nationally, says states are getting more “creativeâ€? and prolific with 43 new anti-abortion laws enacted in the first six months of this year. Policy analyst Elizabeth Nash, predicts more states will follow Ohio’s lead. “We are seeing this onslaught of over regulation and with that these hospital relationships, transfer agreements or privilege bills moving at a very quick clip and probably a lot of that will stand up in court," says Nash. “We are ground zero for the pro-life abortion debate nationwide," says Gonidakis. Again, Mike Gonidakis of Ohio Right to Life. “...most other states look to Ohio to see what works and what can be accomplished,â€? says Gonidakis. Gonidakis says he’s been “exchanging notesâ€? with Texas lately. Texas Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis gained national attention last month with her - ultimately unsuccessful - filibuster to block a law that would require all abortion clinics to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers. Texas abortion Clinics have less than 90 days to undergo expensive renovations to their facilities. As many as 37 of the state’s existing 42 clinics may have to shut down. Ohio adopted a similar law in 1995. And abortion clinics here complain that the extra cost has also made it harder for them to stay in business. Back in Toledo, with the Center for Choice shut down, the remaining abortion clinic’s transfer contract with the university hospital expires at the end of this month. If it ends up closing, the closest clinic for Toledo area residents will be in Detroit - about 60 miles away. And Sue Postal, former director of the now closed “Center for Choiceâ€? says that will be a hardship for the mostly low-income women who often lack their own transportation. “Do I think what was in the budget will ultimately affect a woman somewhere in this city, county, state – Yes. And I don’t know what the outcome will be for those people individually," says Postal. Postal says the closing of both clinics in Toledo could come down to foregoing an abortion or obtaining an illegal one.