A decision by the Ohio Department of Health to exempt a Planned Parenthood clinic from a recent Ohio TRAP law means that the last remaining abortion clinic in Cincinnati will remain open.
The Ohio Department of Health threatened to shut down Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center last month after the clinic could not obtain a transfer agreement with a local private hospital as required by an Ohio TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law signed by Republican Governor John Kasich last year. If the clinic had closed, the city of 2.1 million people would have become the largest metro region in the country without an abortion clinic.
The Ohio TRAP law requires abortion clinics get a written agreement with a local hospital willing to take patients from the clinic in an emergency – even though these emergencies are extremely rare and hospital emergency rooms must already accept patients in emergency situations. Under the law, however, existing clinics could apply for a variance that would exempt the facility from the requirement.
The Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center had applied for a variance over a year ago, when it received the initial notice threatening to rescind the clinic’s operating license. Planned Parenthood subsequently filed a lawsuit against the state earlier this month.
On Thursday, however, the health department director, Richard Hodges, granted the clinic’s request for a variance, allowing the facility to keep open its doors.
“We are pleased that ODH [Ohio Department of Health] has approved of the emergency plan we have in place for patients,” said Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio. “This ruling will ensure that women in Southwest Ohio continue to have access to safe and legal abortion.” Planned Parenthood has arranged care with four doctors at local hospitals in cases of emergency.
In grating the variance, Hodges reiterated that he could revoke approval of the variance at any time. Under Ohio law, the health department director’s decision is final.
A clinic in Sharonville called Women’s Med was recently declined the exception by the health department, and clinic in Dayton, also a Women’s Med clinic, is seeking the exception but has not yet heard back.
Laws like the Ohio TRAP law jeopardize women’s health by purposefully making it more difficult for clinics to remain open. Ohio’s law is particularly onerous as Governor Kasich also signed rules that prohibit publicly-funded hospitals from having transfer agreements with abortion clinics, leaving clinics at the mercy of private hospitals, many of whom are religiously-affiliated and oppose abortion.
Media Resources: Cincinnati.com 11/21/14, 11/7/13; Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region 11/20/14; Feminist Newswire 10/28/14, 7/1/13