Judge: Ohio Anti-Choice Law Unconstitutional, Rules Clinic Can Remain Open

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Judge: Ohio Anti-Choice Law Unconstitutional, Rules Clinic Can Remain Open

Nina Liss-Schultz

An Ohio abortion clinic will remain open despite an almost yearlong effort by anti-choice state officials to shutter its doors, thanks to a county judge’s ruling on Friday that the state’s abortion clinic licensing laws are unconstitutional.

An Ohio abortion clinic will remain open despite an almost yearlong effort by anti-choice state officials to shutter its doors, thanks to a county judge’s ruling on Friday that the state’s abortion clinic licensing laws are unconstitutional.

The GOP-majority Ohio legislature in 2013 passed a law requiring that abortion clinics have written transfer agreements with local, private hospitals in order to be licensed by the state. That requirement proved impossible for Capital Care Network (CCN), the only abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio.

CCN searched for months for a private, Ohio-based hospital that would approve its state-mandated request for a transfer agreement, but had no luck. The clinic instead wrote an agreement with a Michigan hospital located about 50 miles away.

But in July the state department of health revoked CCN’s operating license, saying that its transfer agreement needed to be with a “local” hospital. The clinic appealed the state order a month later and was allowed to stay open until the issue was decided.

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That decision came on Friday. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart ruled that the state’s treatment of CCN is unconstitutional and that the clinic should remain open, marking a significant victory for providers of abortion care in Ohio.

Duhart wrote in his opinion that the state’s law is unconstitutional because it gives outside hospitals and physicians too much power in deciding whether abortion clinics can be licensed. This was demonstrated in the case of CCN, when no hospital would sign a transfer agreement, leading to the revocation of the clinic’s license.

The judge said that the transfer agreement law violates the Ohio Constitution’s “Single-Subject Rule,” which requires that bills contain only one subject. The clinic licensing law had been tacked onto the state’s 2013 budget bill.

Ohio lawmakers took a similar tactic this year, adding a provision to the 2015 two-year budget that would further restrict abortion clinic licensing.

“The Ohio legislature and John Kasich ought to read Judge Duhart’s ruling carefully,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland. “They should remove the provisions that they added at the 11th hour that target abortion clinics in the currently proposed budget. These measures are also likely to be found to violate the due process rights of abortion providers and be found unconstitutional.”

Capital Care Network is the only free-standing, outpatient abortion clinic in Toledo, the fourth largest city in Ohio with a population of almost 300,000. It’s one of the only clinics in northwestern Ohio and one of eight clinics in the entire state.

Almost half of the state’s abortion clinics have closed since Ohio Republicans’ passage of the 2013 clinic licensing law.