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Health & Science

Ohio Health Department Draws Criticism and Praise By Ordering the Shutdown of Dayton Abortion Clinic

Montage of Statehouse protests
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
Gabriel Mann of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio calls the decision "a witch hunt" while Katie Franklin of Ohio Right to Life says the situation was an emergency that needed to be addressed.

A decision by the Ohio Department of Health to order a Dayton-area abortion clinic to shut down is drawing criticism and praise. Abortion opponents say it’s a step in the right direction, but supporters of legal abortion say it is politically motivated over-reach by a state agency.

NARAL Pro Choice Ohio’s Gabriel Mann condemns the decision by the Ohio Department of Health to revoke an operating license for a Dayton area abortion clinic. 

“Well, this definitely appears to be a witch hunt,” he said.

Ohio law gives the state’s health department the authority to regulate abortion clinics and set standards for operation. Mann says the problem is the standard for doing that keeps moving.

A moving target
“The way the Ohio Department of Health appears to be applying these rules – it doesn’t seem very clear. They are asking for a number of backup doctors that seems to change with every application for a variance. We are seeing a lack of transparency in when in how the Ohio Department of Health is choosing to apply these guidelines.”

While the Dayton clinic plans to appeal the state’s ruling, it is likely this will eventually end up in court, just like other challenges of abortion laws recently passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature. Mann says the real problem is the state is trying to keep Ohio women from having legal and constitutional access to abortion.

“Ohio lost half of its abortion clinics during the Kasich administration. We went from 16 to eight and now we are up to nine. We know many of the policies this Legislature has put in place under Gov. Kasich have had an effect in reducing clinic access, closing clinics, making it harder for women to get appointments.”

No witch hunt
That’s just fine with Ohio Right to Life’s Katie Franklin. Her organization has been the driving force for many of the new laws.

“It’s not just a matter of a witch hunt or shutting abortion facilities down for the sake of it. There are cases of emergency that need to be addressed. And that is something that the Ohio Department of Health is seeing is addressed,” she said.

Franklin says there have been incidents at abortion clinics where women have been harmed by doctors and insists restrictions by Ohio’s health department are meant to remedy those problems. She says, much to her chagrin, abortion clinics in Ohio are not going to be closing anytime soon.

A gradual decrease
“Abortionists are finding ways to change their practices to meet current laws and standards from the Ohio Department of Health. I don’t think that abortion is just going to disappear. I think that we are just going to see gradual decreases and changes in how abortions occur in the state of Ohio.”

Those standards and rules could be changing in the coming weeks. The Ohio Legislature is expected to approve at least one bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of gestation. Another bill regarding disposal of fetal remains might also pass the legislature during this lame duck session.

The president of Ohio Right to Life, Mike Gonidakis, also heads up the state medical board. But Gonidakis recused himself from the Dayton clinic case.