Pro-Choice Activists Kept Toledo’s Only Abortion Clinic Open

An Ohio abortion clinic that was dangerously close to ceasing services will continue providing abortions thanks to activist pressure—including efforts by Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem—and a hospital’s decision to sign a patient-transfer agreement.

Anubis Abyss / Creative Commons

After the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a 2014 ruling requiring abortion providers to obtain patient-transfer agreements with local hospitals, Capital Care Network could no longer rely on their agreement with a Michigan facility to comply with state laws. The clinic was forced to ask the private hospital ProMedica Toledo to sign an agreement.

Steinem, who is originally from Toledo, issued a public statement last week asking the hospital system to comply with the clinic’s request. “We must not allow a political regulatory scheme to close Toledo’s remaining abortion clinic,” she wrote. “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 American women. Ohio hospitals must not allow themselves to be used by politicians to hurt women’s health.”

The hospital complied later that day, just hours after the statement—and in the wake of increased pressure by local activists, who made hundreds of phone calls and held a press conference and rally outside ProMedica facilities in Toledo. Local organizations like  Pro-choice Ohio had also organized support for the clinic.

“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,” ProMedica spokesperson Tedra White wrote in a statement. “We believe that all individuals should have access to the best care in their neighborhoods.”

ProMedica’s decision allows the Ohio Department of Health to end proceedings that would have revoked the clinic’s license. If the hospital didn’t step in as a local partner, people seeking surgical abortions in Toledo would have to travel upwards of 50 miles on multiple days to receive care. Patients in Ohio are already no strangers to unnecessary restrictions—according to state law, patients must undergo mandated counseling and a 24-hour wait period. Accessing state funding for healthcare is also no simple feat.

The clinic itself has battled cumbersome transfer agreement issues for years, including the end of a former contract with the University of Toledo Medical Center in 2013 when a rule was slipped into a budget banning public hospitals from signing agreements with abortion facilities. These baseless requirements, sometimes called TRAP or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws, place undue burden on patients by increasing the time and cost spent seeking care. Laws that cut low-income people off from abortion access are commonly used by conservative politicians who hope to create any roadblocks for people seeking care.

As attacks on reproductive healthcare continue, pro-choice advocates like those applying pressure in Ohio remain resilient. Thanks to ProMedica’s decision, surgical abortion access in Toledo isn’t going anywhere, either.

20160909_121504Michele Sleighel is a Research Assistant at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has an MA in Communication at the University of Texas in San Antonio and a BS in PR from the University of Texas in Austin and is very proud of her El Paso roots. Find her on Twitter @MicheleSleighel

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