Closing down an abortion center ... legally

by Lois Moore

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It was only a small notice in the Dayton Daily News of Jan. 8, 2001, but it was a very big deal to the pro-life community. On that date, Dayton learned that one of the city's two abortion centers had closed down for good.

In 1999 someone at Cleveland (Ohio) Right to Life noticed that the state had a law on the books that required any ambulatory surgical facility to have a license from the state to operate and to meet certain standards. The definitions in the law certainly seemed to describe abortion centers, and nothing in the law specifically excluded them. But when Cleveland RTL compared the state's list of licensed facilities with its list of abortion centers, they were surprised to discover that none of the 22 known abortion centers in the state were licensed. They contacted the state Department of Health and insisted that they enforce the law.

The Department of Health conducted inspections of abortion centers across the state, including the center in Dayton. Although they identified a number of violations of the state standards, they nevertheless granted a license in May of 2000.

In October of that year, a woman died eight hours after getting an abortion at the center. They were investigated again by the state, and the Department of Health found additional violations.

Among the regulations is a requirement that a an ambulatory medical center of any kind must have an agreement with a local hospital that the hospital will serve as backup in case of need. In this abortion center's case, the requirement was waived because Dr Larry Gould, founder and part owner of the facility, agreed to serve as the medical backup, and he had local hospital privileges. However, Dr. Gould became a Christian some years ago and quit performing abortions. (It is not clear exactly why Dr Gould allowed his name to continue to be used. Whether this was simply an oversight, or he wanted to remain involved to insure that when there were complications women got real help, or any of a number of other conceivable reasons.) Dayton Right to Life contacted Dr Gould and convinced him to withddraw from this arrangment.

The abortion center requested a waiver of the hospital backup requirement. Pro-lifers mobilized local legislators and physicians to contact the Department of Health expressing opposition to a waiver. Whether or not this made any difference, on December 3 the state sent the abortion center a letter giving them 30 days to bring the center up to state standards or to close down.

In early January the owners announced that they were retiring and shutting down the center.

Were it not for the actions of Cleveland Right to Life, Dayton Right to Life, and other pro-lifers, it is likely that this facility would still be in operation. Yet it is important to note that everything done was in strict accordance with the law. Indeed, it was done without recourse to any law that in any way singled out abortion providers. Instead, they simply insisted that an abortion center follow the same laws and regulations that applied to any other comparable medical facility in the state. If an X-ray clinic or urgent care center had been run in the same way that this abortion center was, they would have been shut down, too.

Afterword: Several abortion centers in the state are now arguing that they should not be required to follow these licensing regulations, that health and safety regulations that apply to other medical practitioners should not apply to abortionists. Remember that the next time they tell you that abortion is "just another medical procedure".

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Posted 13 Mar 2001.

Copyright 2001 by Pregnant Pause.
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