News Abortion

GOP Presidential Hopeful John Kasich Has Overseen Closure of Half of Ohio’s Abortion Clinics

Nina Liss-Schultz

Kasich in 2013 signed a two-year budget bill that included, among other anti-choice measures, stringent new licensing regulations for abortion clinics in the state.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who on Tuesday jumped into the pool of GOP presidential candidates, has spearheaded a targeted effort against legal abortion access, leading to the closure of half of the state’s outpatient abortion clinics.

Ohio had 14 abortion clinics in 2013, two years into Kasich’s first term. But that summer, flanked by a group of all-male state officials, Kasich signed a two-year budget bill that included, among other anti-choice measures, stringent new licensing regulations for abortion clinics in the state.

Those regulations required that every clinic have a written agreement with a local, private hospital that says it will accept clinic patients in cases of emergency, or else apply for an exemption. The GOP’s anti-choice law explicitly states the agreement cannot be with a public hospital system.

Since the law went into effect in 2013, clinics have scrambled to comply, eight have closed or stopped providing abortion services since the start of that year, and several abortion care providers continue to fight legal battles to stay open. Many of the clinics sought but were unable to find private hospitals, a large portion of which are religiously affiliated in Ohio, that would write a transfer agreement.

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The Cincinnati-area Lebanon Road Surgery Center, also known as Women’s Med, had its variance permit revoked by the state on what it contends were arbitrary terms. The state then revoked the clinic’s operating license altogether, on the grounds that it didn’t have a variance.

The Cincinnati metropolitan area now has one remaining abortion clinic. And that clinic, the Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center, was hit with a citation in October for failing to have a transfer agreement. The clinic for years had an agreement with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, but had to find a private hospital that would do the same.

When officials couldn’t find one, it applied for a variance permit instead. That variance had been pending with the Ohio Department of Health for more than a year when the clinic received the citation.

And this year, Kasich dealt a blow to abortion clinics using the state budget, this time signing two last-minute amendments to the 2015 budget that abortion access advocates say are designed to close two of the state’s clinics.

One of those clinics, called Capital Care Network (CCN), is the Toledo area’s only remaining abortion clinic. CCN originally had a transfer agreement with the University of Toledo Medical Center, but was forced to find a private hospital under the law. After searching in vain, CCN finally signed an agreement with a hospital 50 miles away in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The state Department of Health then revoked the clinic’s license, saying the contract must be made with a “local” hospital. CCN challenged that decision in court and won in June, however, the court’s favorable decision was immediately appealed by the state.

Kasich days later signed the 2015-2017 budget, with an amendment added to define “local” for the purposes of the transfer agreements as at most 30 miles away.

The anti-choice push during Kasich’s tenure as governor has happened with help from not only the state legislature but also the state health board. In 2012 he appointed Mike Gonidakis, the president of the anti-choice group Ohio Right to Life, to the State Medical Board, a body in part responsible for the licensing of abortion clinics.

More recently, Kasich appointed Rick Hodges, formerly the executive director of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, to be the new director of the Ohio Department of Health, despite public outcry that Hodges lacks the experience, required by law, for the job. The health department is responsible for setting and implementing statewide health policy and responding to public health crises in the state, among other things.

Hodges also served as a state lawmaker in the 1990s, during which time he sponsored at least three anti-choice bills, including one forcing minors give notice to their parents prior to getting an abortion.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hints at More Supreme Court Retirements

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

In a recent interview, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dishes on the last Supreme Court term and hints the next president may have more than one justice to appoint.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggests the next president is going to have a couple of U.S. Supreme Court nominations to make, which means the Court could be effectively up for grabs depending on this election’s outcome.

This summer, the Supreme Court ordered the Obama administration and religiously affiliated nonprofits who object to providing contraception to try and find some kind of compromise. While they hammer one out, a University of Notre Dame student has asked a federal appeals court to let her join in the litigation, to fight the university’s stance of trying to deny access to contraception coverage.

Anti-choice protesters will be descending on Wichita, Kansas, this week to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Summer of Mercy clinic sieges.

A state judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) against Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky for purportedly performing abortions without license.

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Florida officials have not yet appealed a federal district court ruling blocking a law that would have prevented Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood reproductive health care centers. The law would also mandate a state regulator review of patient records from half of the approximately 70,000 abortions in the state each year.

An Ohio appeals court ruled a Cleveland abortion clinic can move forward with its lawsuit challenging requirements that prohibit public hospitals from entering into transfer agreements with clinics, along with another requirement that mandates providers to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to block an Indiana law requiring that a patient getting an abortion must have an ultrasound 18 hours before the procedure.

Meanwhile, abortion rights supporters in Wisconsin are urging lawmakers to repeal the state’s admitting privileges requirement.

Anti-choice lawmakers in Texas plan to try to require aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated in an attempt to add additional emotional burden and administrative expense to the procedure.

Free speech for whom, exactly? The man who posted the video of the police killing of Alton Sterling has been reportedly arrested on charges of assault and battery.

News Politics

Senate Democrats Object to Contraception Limits in Blocking GOP Zika Agreement

Christine Grimaldi

“Republicans don’t want to treat Zika as an emergency and they don’t want to expand access to birth control," Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said in a statement. "It begs the question: Will they be willing to pay the costs associated with every child born in this country with Zika-related birth defects?”

Democrats in the U.S. Senate Tuesday temporarily blocked a $1.1 billion GOP-engineered agreement to combat the Zika virus amid objections to the strings attached, including restrictions on contraceptive access.

Their Republican counterparts needed 60 votes to end debate and proceed to a vote on the measure. The 52-48 vote fell short of that threshold.

The Zika aid is part of a sweeping conference report (H. Rept. 114-640) that also provides fiscal year 2017 military construction and veterans affairs funding. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the conference report last week in a largely party-line vote with few Democrats on board. Prior to the vote, Democrats involved in negotiations had refused to sign off on the plan, which would limit contraceptive services in the United States and Puerto Rico and falls short of the Obama administration’s $1.9 billion request for emergency supplemental Zika funding.

As Rewire reported last week, the Republican agreement limits women to obtaining contraceptive services from public health departments, hospitals, and Medicaid Managed Care clinics. This could prove particularly challenging for women in Puerto Rico, a sprawling territory with few such options. Republicans would also prohibit subgrants to outside groups “that could provide important services to hard-to-reach populations, especially hard-to-reach populations of women that want to access contraceptive services,” according to a Democratic summary.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor to argue that the Republican agreement actually provides “more resources for women’s health services” through the three options.

“It’s really puzzling to hear Democrats claim to be advocates for women[’s] health measures when they are the ones trying to block the Zika legislation and its critical resources to protect women’s health,” McConnell said.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), however, criticized Republicans for effectively prohibiting contraceptive services between many women and their doctors or primary care clinics.

“I know the issue of birth control is difficult for some, but we know that Zika has terrible consequences for women and babies,” Mikulski said in a statement. “Republicans don’t want to treat Zika as an emergency and they don’t want to expand access to birth control. It begs the question: Will they be willing to pay the costs associated with every child born in this country with Zika-related birth defects?”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that Zika causes microcephaly, an incurable neurological disorder that impairs brain and skull growth in utero, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Advocates have said the virus underscores the urgent need for better contraceptive access, particularly since Zika can be sexually transmitted.

Online requests for abortion medications have spiked in Latin American countries that issued warnings to pregnant people about Zika-related complications yet outlaw or restrict the health care, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine study.

A White House spokesperson June 23 said that President Barack Obama would veto the funding package in its current form. McConnell will attempt to bring up the Republican agreement after the Senate returns from its July 4 recess, according to a leadership spokesperson.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other party leaders in the chamber called for a new round of Zika talks.

“The conference report includes a restriction that would limit funding for providers of birth control services—a backdoor way of restricting care from women’s health providers like Planned Parenthood and family planning centers that would have serious consequences for women’s health,” they said in a letter to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).