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Ohio abortion clinic appeals state's decision to revoke license

Women's Med Center of Dayton last week appealed Ohio officials' decision to revoke its operating license, the Dayton Daily News reports (Wedell, Dayton Daily News, 12/2).

State regulations

Ohio's 2014-2015 budget (HB 59) included a requirement for abortion clinics in the state to have a patient transfer agreement with a hospital. Public hospitals are prohibited from entering into such agreements with abortion clinics. Gov. John Kasich (R) last year signed a state budget (HB 64) that required abortion clinics to arrange a patient transfer agreement with a hospital no more than 30 miles away or request a variance from the requirement.

The law also requires the state health director to grant or deny a clinic's variance request within 60 days. Clinics unable to obtain a variance within 60 days are required to close, although they are permitted to reopen if they obtain approval at a later time. If the clinic's variance request is denied, its operating license is automatically suspended.

An Ohio court found the state's application of the requirement to another clinic, Capital Care, to be unconstitutional. An appeals court upheld the ruling.

State denies variance request

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) denied Women's Med's variance request in October.

ODH last year told the clinic it must have contracts with at least three physicians. The clinic's latest application included three contracts, but Ohio Director of Health Richard Hodges denied the request, claiming that the contracts did not "provide the same level of patient health and safety that a written transfer agreement with a local hospital assures for 24/7 backup coverage."

The clinic is in the process of an administrative appeal following the state's move last year to revoke its license. A hearing administrator in September recommended the state proceed with the revocation because of the transfer agreement requirement.

In late November, state officials signed the revocation order, claiming the clinic did not meet the state's criteria for a variance to a patient transfer agreement requirement, officials said (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/2).

Women's Med appeals decision

The clinic appealed the revocation order in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Noting that it had met the law's requirements by contracting with three back-up physicians, the clinic contended that the state's order was arbitrary.

Lawyers for Women's Med also requested an emergency motion to stay the order, which would enable the clinic to remain in operation pending a decision in the lawsuit. Jennifer Branch, the clinic's lawyer, said a judge will likely rule on the motion before Dec. 15, at which time the clinic would have to cease operations.

ODH has until Dec. 8 to file a response to the appeal (Dayton Daily News, 12/2).