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ProMedica authorizes patient-transfer agreement with Toledo's last abortion clinic

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    Abortion rights protesters gather on Monroe Street during an event near ProMedica Toledo Hospital to call on ProMedica and St. Luke's Hospital to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network on Monday, Feb.12, 2018.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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    Merlyn Pitney, Bowling Green, protests during an event near ProMedica Toledo Hospital to call on ProMedica and St. Luke's Hospital to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network on Monday Feb.12, 2018.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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    Protesters gather on Monroe Street to call on ProMedica and St. Luke's Hospital to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network, Toledo's last abortion clinic.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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  • CTY-CHOICE13-3

    Anti-abortion protester Cal Zastrow, of Bay City, Mich., demonstrates near ProMedica Toledo Hospital.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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    Capital Care Network clinic in Toledo.

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CTY-CHOICE13-2

Abortion rights protesters gather on Monroe Street during an event near ProMedica Toledo Hospital to call on ProMedica and St. Luke's Hospital to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network on Monday, Feb.12, 2018.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Hours after protesters converged on ProMedica Toledo Hospital on Monday to call on ProMedica to sign a patient-transfer agreement that would keep Toledo’s last surgical abortion clinic operating, the hospital system’s board of trustees authorized that to happen.

The authorization of the transfer agreement with Capital Care Network “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 issued after the board meeting.

RELATED: Toledo’s only abortion clinic in time crunch to sign agreement with ProMedica

“Entering into this agreement aligns with ProMedica’s mission and values, including our focus on being a health system dedicated to the well-being of northwest Ohio and our belief that no one is beyond the reach of life-saving health care,” she wrote. “Furthermore, we believe that all individuals should have access to the best care in their neighborhoods.”

Jennifer Branch, a Cincinnati lawyer representing Capital Care Network, said Monday night that as soon as she obtains a copy of the agreement, she will file documents with the Ohio Department of Health to stop license-revocation proceedings against the clinic.

“Thank you to ProMedica for stepping up and taking care of the women of northwest Ohio,” Ms. Branch said. “This is great news.”

VIDEO: Protests at ProMedica Toledo Hospital

ProMedica Statement

At a special meeting held earlier this evening, the ProMedica Board of Trustees authorized ProMedica to enter into a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network. The transfer agreement formally puts in writing an existing practice to provide emergency medical care to all who need it in our community.

Entering into this agreement aligns with ProMedica’s Mission and values, including our focus on being a health system dedicated to the well-being of northwest Ohio and our belief that no one is beyond the reach of life-saving health care. Furthermore, we believe that all individuals should have access to the best care in their neighborhoods.

“That’s wonderful news...,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said after being told of the ProMedica board’s action. “Sounds like they made the decision in keeping with their role as a leader in public health in northwest Ohio.”

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, called the ProMedica board’s decision “an absolute tragedy” while arguing Capital Care had violated “state health and safety regulations for the past four years.”

He added: “Behind closed doors, ProMedica chose not to support life-saving health care but instead to bow at the altar of abortion. How many more babies will die at this clinic? How many more women will suffer from botched abortions? ProMedica violated the Hippocratic oath all doctors attest to which is ‘to do no harm.’”

RELATED: Activists press ProMedica to sign agreement with abortion clinicOhio's high court hears second case challenging abortion rules

Just last week the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the state’s order to end surgical abortions at the last abortion clinic in northwest Ohio. That seemed to indicate that the clinic would be closed, unless ProMedica or another local hospital would provide a transfer agreement previously not offered.

In 2016, 744 Lucas County residents had abortions, which made up the majority of the 1,144 abortions performed in the county. Of the 1,144 performed, 898 were surgical abortions.

Over the last few years, the number of abortion clinics in Ohio has dropped from 16 to eight. Three are in the Cleveland-Akron area, two in Columbus, and one each in Toledo, Dayton, and Cincinnati.

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Protesters gather on Monroe Street to call on ProMedica and St. Luke's Hospital to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network, Toledo's last abortion clinic.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Earlier Monday, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio was represented among about 50 abortion-rights activists that called on ProMedica and St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee to sign the emergency patient-transfer agreements that, under state law, Capital Care Network needed to remain open.

The group held signs and banners on Monroe Street, near the congested entrance of the hospital campus, for about an hour.

In advance of the rally, feminist and former Toledo resident Gloria Steinem issued a statement strongly urging the hospitals to sign the agreements to safeguard women’s health.

“I was born and grew up mostly in Toledo. Later, when I needed an abortion — as has one in three American women at some time in our lives — I was in London, where it was safe and legal. This taught me why medical procedures should not be decided by politicians,” she said.

Also on Monday during the NARAL supported rally, a smaller but more vocal group of anti-abortion activists protested nearby and on the other side of Monroe Street. They held signs and posters of aborted fetuses, yelled slogans, sang, and recited verses from the Bible.

“We know that abortion is not health care. We know that abortion is the direct, intentional killing of innocent human lives through dismemberment and decapitation. We know that Capital Care has not been abiding by the law. They have continued their operation even though the state law said they need a transfer agreement,” said Sarah Jimenez of Columbus-based Created Equal.

Capital Care had an agreement with the University of Toledo Medical Center — formerly Medical College of Ohio Hospital — until 2013 when the hospital opted not to renew it. Later, Ohio lawmakers prohibited a publicly funded university from providing transfer agreements to abortion clinics.

Capital Care then formed an agreement with University of Michigan Health Center in Ann Arbor, but Ohio regulators ruled, and the state Supreme Court upheld last week, that the local clinic lacked the valid written agreement with a “local” hospital it needed to perform surgical abortions.

St. Luke’s spokesman Jean Gillen last week said the hospital had not been approached recently by any abortion provider seeking a transfer agreement. The spokesman added any such agreement would need to be vetted by the hospital’s board.

Blade staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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