The Cincinnati-area Lebanon Road Surgery Center, also known as Women’s Med, will end its tenure as an abortion provider, beginning on Friday. The clinic decided not to appeal a Hamilton County judge’s ruling that the Ohio Department of Health was within its rights when it revoked the clinic’s license earlier this year.
Lebanon Road had five days to appeal Judge Metz’s decision last Friday or face the halting of its surgical abortion services. The clinic’s attorney, Dorothea Langsam, announced on Wednesday that her clients will not appeal and will stop providing such services at the end of the week.
Though previous reports indicated that the clinic would close altogether, Langsam confirmed for Rewire that Lebanon Road will remain open but will no longer include surgical abortions among the medical services it offers. Instead, women will be able to go to Lebanon Road for the doctor’s appointment they are required by law to have before getting an abortion. The clinic will also continue to provide other reproductive health care to women.
Langsam also said that the clinic is looking into the option of providing non-surgical abortions.
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According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, at the start of 2013, Ohio had 14 abortions clinics. Now only ten remain, three of which have also come under fire. Lebanon Road was one of two clinics in the Cincinnati area that offered surgical abortions, and the only one offering later abortions.
Lebanon Road had been operating at its Sharonville location for nearly four years, and for 32 years at another location in Clifton, Ohio. According to the clinic, it has a hospital transfer ratio of fewer than one patient to every 15,000 surgeries performed, and during its four years of operation at the Sharonville location, clinic staff had only transferred one patient to a hospital, with a successful outcome.
The clinic has been fighting to stay open since 2012, when the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued a proposal to revoke the clinic’s “variance”—an exemption permit that allows a facility to operate without a written transfer agreement with a local hospital, which is required by state law. The ODH then moved to revoke the clinic’s operating license all together for failing to comply with Ohio law by having either a transfer agreement or a variance.
Langsam told Rewire that the obstacles facing Lebanon Road are those that all surgical abortion providers in the state now face. “Ohio has figured out an insidious way of going after abortion clinics,” she said. “By closing them one by one, it makes it difficult to bring a lawsuit against the state based on the undue burden challenge. And by the time such a claim is brought, these clinics will all be closed.”
In an opinion piece for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Martin Haskell, Lebanon Road’s medical director and chief surgeon who has been licensed to practice medicine since the mid 1970s, explained why the change is bad for Ohio:
Tens of thousands of women have walked through our doors over the years. These are women resolute in their decision, unwavering in their commitment, even as picketers try to stop them with their graphic signs and attempt to lure them into clinics masquerading as abortion providers. …
In the past five years, we have seen almost 6,000 of these impoverished women in Cincinnati. These women have few resources, fewer options and no way to travel to another city for an abortion. Their goal is simple. They want only to provide a better life for themselves and the children they already have. They are the silent victims left in our governor’s wake as he closes abortion providers one by one. He has made a conscious decision to abandon these women and their children, sending them into even deeper poverty, hopelessness and suffering.
As part of its decision to stop battling the state in court, Lebanon Road has also decided to drop a lawsuit it filed earlier this month against the ODH for its “unreasonable and politically motivated” decision to revoke the clinic’s variance and license.