Hospital OKs agreement with Ohio city's last abortion clinic

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A hospital system on Monday authorized a patient-transfer agreement to keep the last abortion clinic in one Ohio city operating.

The authorization of the transfer agreement with Capital Care of Toledo "formally puts in writing an existing practice to provide emergency medical care to all who need it to our community," ProMedica spokesman Tedra White said in a statement to The Blade .

"Thank you to ProMedica for stepping up and taking care of the women of northwest Ohio," said Jennifer Branch, a Cincinnati lawyer who represents Capital Care. "This is great news."

Branch said that as soon as she receives a copy of the agreement, she will file documents with the Ohio Department of Health to halt license-revocation proceedings.

The announcement came hours after 83-year-old feminist leader Gloria Steinem, who was born in and grew up in Toledo, issued a statement urging one of the city's private hospitals to sign the patient-transfer agreement.

"We must not allow a political regulatory scheme to close Toledo's remaining abortion clinic," Steinem said. "Its absence would not diminish the number of abortions but would increase the injury and death of women in my home city and state. Democracy begins with each person's control of his or her own body. Without reproductive freedom, there is no democracy for America women."

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a state order from 2014 shuttering Capital Care. Justices ruled the state Health Department acted within its rights because the clinic lacked the required transfer agreement with a local hospital.

Abortion-related restrictions tucked into the state budget bill in 2013 required the partnering hospital to be "local," which nixed an agreement that Capital Care had struck with a public hospital across the Michigan border in Detroit.

The clinic's earlier transfer agreement was with the University of Toledo Medical Center, which is public. The university ended that agreement as a law, later passed, was being debated at the Statehouse that barred public hospitals from participating in transfer agreements with abortion clinics.

Abortion opponents have said the regulations are contributing to a decline in abortions in the state. Abortion-rights groups contend a lack of access is a contributing factor.

Steinem strongly urged ProMedica and St. Luke's Hospital to sign Capital Care's required transfer agreement, in order to retain safe, legal abortions in the area.

"Ohio hospitals must not allow themselves to be used by politicians to hurt women's health," she said, in a statement released through the office of state Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat.

ProMedica had previously refused to sign such an agreement, but said it decided to re-examine its past policy in light of the court's ruling. Messages were left Monday with St. Luke's.

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