A backdoor deal between a state health director and two abortion providers in Ohio allows the clinics to skirt a new law that would have shut them down.
Ohio Department of Health Director Richard Hodges, appointed by GOP presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich, made an agreement with Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region and Women’s Med in Dayton for the facilities to remain open throughout a variance appeals process, according to a judge’s consent order.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett issued the order on Sept. 28, allowing the two providers to stay open because an agreement made the clinics’ previous motion or injunction moot.
The clinics and the ODH have been in a battle over licensing. Both clinics do surgical abortions, but Ohio law states that facilities doing those procedures must have an ambulatory agreement with a local hospital. The reasoning is that the clinic must have a way to transport the woman to a nearby hospital in case something goes wrong during the abortion.
Neither facility has such an agreement with a local hospital, so they were denied licenses. Both filed for a variance to the surgical license. In Ohio, gaining an exception can be approved if the facility has another approved method in place for a woman to gain immediate access to a hospital.
Planned Parenthood and Women’s Med filed a request for an injunction when it filed its variance request, anticipating sanctions and penalties from the state during the appeals process. The injunction, if approved by a judge, would have stopped all legal proceedings against the clinics.
The judge’s action on Sept. 28 was regarding this injunction motion. Basically, the judge disregarded the injunction because the two parties had come to an agreement for the clinics to remain open.
”Director Hodges has provided Plaintiffs with the opportunity to request a hearing on the proposed licensure actions….and has assured the Plaintiffs that if they request a hearing ‘you may remain in operation while the administrative proceedings take place,’” Barrett’s order read.
A deal was reached before a new state law took effect on Sept. 28 that would have automatically shut down the two facilities. The law, called the “Automatic Suspension Provision,” would automatically close facilities denied a surgical license. Hodges denied the variance request on Sept. 25, days before the law took effect, so the new law doesn’t apply in these cases. Planned Parenthood and Women’s Med are suing the state over the law, but can continue to provide surgical procedures during their appeal on the variance request.
“Since the Director’s actions were taken prior to the effective date of [the Automatic Suspension Provision], the parties agree that the provisions of … the Automatic Suspension Provision will not apply to these variance denials,” the judge’s order states.
ODH director of communications Melanie Amato would only state that proper procedures were followed.
“In these cases, the Department of Health determined that these variance requests did not meet or exceed the level of patient protection that is essential. The facilities will be able to continue to operate while they appeal the proposed revocation if they choose to appeal. We have no other comment,” the statement read.
The state was requiring four doctors to substitute for a hospital, and the facilities had three, according to reports in the New York Times. A four-doctor requirement had never been mandated prior to this case, according to an attorney representing the clinics.
Pro-life officials are not happy and state the decision will put women’s health at risk.
“We don’t need another unsuspecting woman to die, to remind us that those laws are there for a reason,” Life Issues Institute President Brad Mattes said to LifeSiteNews regarding the subject.