Women’s Med Center, one of Greater Cincinnati’s two abortion providers, must cease providing abortions, Hamilton County Judge Jerome Metz ruled Aug. 18.
The clinic has been fighting the Ohio Department of Health to stay open for more than a year. Women’s Med filed for a variance to rules stipulating a clinic must have admitting privileges with an area hospital.
Clinics can get an exception if the individual doctors who work there have their own agreements with hospitals. Women’s Med has received that variance in the past, but ODH denied the clinic’s request last year. Women’s Med appealed that decision, but a Hamilton County magistrate ruled in June that the clinic must close its doors.
The ruling overturned an earlier decision by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jerome Metz that gave the clinic a temporary reprieve while it appeals the ODH’s decision. But Metz said on Aug. 18 he cannot overrule the magistrate’s order to close the clinic and that Women’s Med has five days to appeal the decision or close down.
The clinic has ceased fighting its legal battle and will no longer provide abortions.
However, it will continue to see patients to prepare them for procedures at a location in Dayton also run by Women's Med owners Mel and Val Haskell.
Pro-life groups like Cincinnati Right to Life have applauded the ruling and pushed for the clinic’s closing.
The circumstances behind the clinic’s variance being revoked in the first place are controversial.
Former Ohio Department of Health regulator Roy Croy, now retired from the department, told The Enquirer in February that officials with the department were “looking for anything” that they could use to shut down Women’s Med. Croy’s office renewed the clinic’s license in 2011, but he was subsequently suspended for missing a complaint from someone outside Ohio about the fact that one of the clinic’s three doctors with hospital admitting privileges had retired.
Records show high-level officials with the ODH were involved in assessing the clinic’s variance request and that the officials were in regular contact with Gov. John Kasich’s office on the matter. Croy’s office was instructed not to follow normal procedures such as requesting information or performing an inspection on the clinic. When an inspection was done anyway, and the clinic was found to meet standards, staffers at the ODH sent out a renewal. That renewal was reversed a day later by ODH head Ted Wymyslo.
Women’s Med appealed this decision, which has led to the recent series of court cases.
Officials with ODH admit to the increased scrutiny and say it happened because the clinic was applying for an exception to state rules. They also say their coordination with the governor’s office is routine in such cases and that the department made its decision about Women’s Med independently of Gov. Kasich.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s other remaining women's health clinic that provides abortions, a Planned Parenthood facility in Mount Auburn, is fighting its own battle to stay open. It filed with the state for a license renewal more than a year ago and has not received a response from the ODH. Should it also cease providing abortions, Cincinnati would become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to an abortion provider.
“Abortion access is now severely endangered for Cincinnati area women with only one provider remaining,” Val Haskell of Women's Med said in a statement. “This sole provider is also soon to be closed if Governor Kasich has his way.”