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New Abortion Law Forces Some Women To Seek Clinics Hours Away

Ohio is feeling the effect of the latest fight in the abortion debate. Having failed to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents have pushed for increased regulations on clinics, forcing some to close. Several in Ohio have closed this year. WOSU has a more on the impact of a new state law which has made it difficult for some clinics to remain open. For women seeking an abortion in Ohio, their options are dwindling. This year three Ohio abortion clinics have closed, leaving 11 clinics statewide. And four of those clinics face uncertain futures. If those clinics close, the western half of the state will have no abortion providers. After a clinic closed in Toledo, many women must travel an hour to facility in Michigan. University of Toledo senior Kaylie Hoffman called the situation outrageous. “Obviously it’s a hard thing to go through anyway," Hoff said. "But not only that but having to travel hours to get that kind of care is not the best solution.â€? Abortion rights supporters place most of the blame on a change in state law that prohibits public hospitals from working with abortion clinics. The change affects patient-transfer agreements with hospitals. All surgical clinics must have a transfer agreement with a hospital, in case something goes wrong with a procedure like a colonoscopy, eye surgery or an abortion. But a provision tacked on to the state budget prevents public hospitals from having transfer agreements with abortion clinics. Mike Gonidakis heads Ohio Right to Life which helped draft the new provision. “Now that doesn’t stop an abortion clinic facility from entering into a private transfer agreement with a private hospital.â€? But a growing number of private hospitals, especially those with religious affiliations, refuse to work with abortion clinics. Kellie Copeland directs NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Copeland said some hospitals fear backlash from abortion opponents. “That their facility will be picketed by anti-choice providers," Copeland said. "And so healthcare providers try not to be political. And so you do have some of these places unwilling to do transfer agreements.â€? This seems to be the case in western Ohio. Toledo soon could be without an abortion provider. The Center for Choice lost its license and closed earlier this year. It had a number of health violations, and it operated without a transfer agreement for nearly three years. Clinic director Sue Postal said it had a verbal agreement with ProMedica, a non-profit hospital, and tried to get one in writing. But she suspects politics interfered. “I think that it’s their protocol not to physically hand out those pieces of paper to independent providers or agencies, but that they are very supportive under the federal law of taking any patient that they would need to," Postal said. "So I think that they were there for us, it’s just that they weren’t there for us they way the Ohio Department of Health wanted it to be which was on paper.â€? Officials with ProMedica declined to answer questions, but in a written statement they said, “We do not want to be put into a position of choosing a political position that is only divisive and polarizing.â€? But ProMedica notes it would treat any woman faced with an emergency.In fact, federal law requires any hospital to treat a woman who comes to them from an abortion clinic. That’s why Copeland said the new state law is an attempt to close abortion clinics. “This is whether or not paperwork gets filled out, whether a bureaucratic process is followed, not something that impacts patient care.â€? But Gonidakis disagrees. “Federal courts said it’s constitutional to have a transfer agreement for health and safety reasons," he said. "You can’t just target the abortion industry; it has to apply to everybody. So indeed, it does apply to everyone. It’s a time-tested manner. Other states do this. Ohio’s not the only one.â€? But the change in state law only prohibits abortion clinic transfer agreements with public hospitals. Abortion providers without a transfer agreement can apply for a state variance which would allow them to remain open. But the permits are not guaranteed. The state recently revoked a suburban Cincinnati clinic’s variance after one of its doctor’s hospital admitting status was changed. The facility has filed an objection. Two other southwestern Ohio clinics need variances to remain open.