A county judge in Ohio ruled late last week that a Cincinnati-area abortion facility recently ordered by the state’s Department of Health to close may remain open while it appeals the decision.
On Friday, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jerome Metz Jr. suspended the closure order for the Lebanon Road Surgery Center (LRSC), saying it would result in “unusual hardship.”
The judge’s ruling follows the Jan. 17 directive issued to LRSC by Ohio Department of Health Director Theodore Wymyslo, ordering the facility to close its doors by Feb. 4. The directive cites violations of state health code, “which requires ambulatory surgical facilities to obtain a written transfer agreement with a hospital for the transfer of patients in the event of medical complications, emergency situations, or for other needs as they arise.”
According to news reports, the facility—one of two abortion providers in the Cincinnati area and the only one that performs late-term abortions—had been unable to secure such an agreement and had been operating under a variance allowing it to use back-up doctors with hospital admitting privileges.
Last month, Wymyslo, a physician himself, refused to grant the facility's latest request for a variance, noting, among other things, that the clinic’s “past failure to timely communicate and request approval for changes to the previously approved variance worried … [him] that conditions at the facility while operating under the variance could not be adequately monitored to ensure patient safety.”
Additionally, Wymyslo pointed out that in one case, the facility, by its own admission, “failed to verify with the hospital the extent of one back-up physician’s admitting privileges.” He concluded that when any doubts arise with an application for a variance, they “must be resolved in favor of ensuring patient safety and continuity of care.”
But Metz’s Friday ruling means that LRSC can remain open—despite having no written transfer agreement and no variance—while it appeals the Department’s decision, raising additional concerns over patient safety.
“The judge’s decision shocked the conscience of all Ohioans as the judge disregarded the health and safety of women and unborn babies in the effort to put profits first and allow this operation to maintain its business,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis told me. “There is an abortion clinic in Hamilton County that is operating illegally and unsafely, and the judge just turned a blind eye.”
Gonidakis expressed concern over what he sees as a lowering of standards when it comes to protecting women at abortion facilities, and he said that by allowing the clinic to remain open without a transfer agreement, the judge is, in essence, saying, “Let’s just hope and pray nothing bad happens.”
The case will now continue through the appeals process, which is expected to take about a year.