Women’s Med Center abortion facility in Kettering, Ohio, a Dayton suburb, received a stunning win Wednesday when the Ohio Department of Health decided to approve the facility’s license to operate, the latest development in a years-long legal battle over the facility’s violation of state law.
Shockingly, the facility has been in violation of Ohio law requiring that ambulatory surgical centers meet certain licensing guidelines for literally decades, and yet has operated with business as usual up until a few weeks ago. Bizarrely, even then, only surgical abortions were halted. The flagrant impunity with which the facility has continued operations, and been allowed to continue by the Ohio Department of Health and various other regulatory agencies, is yet another reminder that abortion is not real healthcare. Unlike every other area of medicine, the abortion industry repeatedly gets passes, do-overs, and exemptions, all in the name of access. When it comes to abortion, access — not safety — is the top priority, as evidenced in virtually every press release by any pro-choice organization on any litigation in the last few years.
Back in 1999, the Ohio Department of Health began enforcing a law that had been on the years for books, requiring that ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) like Women’s Med Center have a transfer agreement with a local hospital in the event that an ASC patient has to be hospitalized. If ASCs can’t obtain a written transfer agreement, they can apply for a variance to the law wherein they contract with individual physicians who have admitting privileges at a local hospital and can care for ASC patients that require hospitalization. These measures are in place to promote patient safety. Ohio abortion facilities were notably not in compliance with that law, and somehow it took the Ohio Department of Health 16 years to get around to ordering Women’s Med Center to either comply or close.
Women’s Med Center, which is owned by Dr. Martin Haskell, who takes credit for inventing the grisly D&X method of abortion (better known as partial-birth abortion), has filed appeal after appeal over the years. Despite their last approved license expiring in 2012, being ordered to close in 2015, and having their license officially revoked in 2016, the facility’s financial bottom line wasn’t impacted until October 29, 2019, when the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the facility’s appeal of a lower court’s decision to uphold state law and they were forced to halt surgical abortions. Women’s Med Center finally secured enough physician signatures to qualify for a variance of the law, and the Ohio Department of Health issued the facility’s license without comment on Tuesday.
The ACLU’s press release about the license approval quoted their own attorney, Elizabeth Watson, as saying, “Women’s Med has safely provided critical health care services to people in its community for decades, so there was no justification for forcing it to stop providing surgical abortion care in the first place.” Her statement could not be more disingenuous. Women’s Med Center has been riddled by safety issues for years. The center hospitalized two abortion patients in one day in 2014. In 2016, staff there committed an abortion on a drug-impaired patient unable to give consent. The center hospitalized another woman in 2018 and hospitalized two patients within four weeks early in 2019.
One thing is clear: women didn’t win when Women’s Med Center got its new license approved. Women deserve better.
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