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Ohio abortion clinic ends fight over closure order

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CINCINNATI (AP) — A Cincinnati-area abortion clinic has ended its fight with the state over a license revocation and will stop performing surgical abortions this week, clinic officials said Wednesday, blaming Gov. John Kasich and accusing him of trying to end all abortions in Ohio.

The development will leave just one clinic in the Cincinnati area offering surgical abortions and none with late-term abortions, said attorney Dorothea Langsam, who represents the Lebanon Road Surgery Center of Sharonville.

“This is a difficult day for those of us who care about a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body,” Langsam said.

She said the clinic, which opened 35 years ago, provided about 2,000 abortions a year.

Its closure will mean hundreds of additional women going to Cincinnati’s only other clinic, which will increase wait times, push women farther into pregnancy and increase the risk of complications, Langsam said.

Women seeking abortions between 18 and 22 weeks into their pregnancies will have to go to the Dayton clinic, which Langsam said will disproportionately affect low-income women who will have more difficulty finding transportation for the roughly two-hour drive.

“Abortion access is now severely endangered for Cincinnati area women with only one provider remaining,” Valerie Haskell, co-owner of the clinic and another Dayton clinic, said in a statement.

She blamed the Republican governor and politics for the clinic’s difficulties, saying Kasich’s “agenda is to methodically close each abortion provider one by one (hoping no one will notice) until it is impossible to get an abortion anywhere in Ohio.”

“This is what happens when a politician becomes blinded by his personal beliefs,” Haskell said. “He governs for the minority and disregards the majority.”

Kasich’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, declined repeated requests for comment and questioned why the clinic would sue the state Department of Health if its owners believed Kasich was ultimately responsible.

Haskell referred to new state rules, approved by Kasich last year, prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from having patient transfer agreements with facilities that provide abortions.

Ohio law simultaneously requires such transfer agreements to be in place, in what abortion rights groups have dubbed a de facto restriction on abortion.

The clinic in Sharonville didn’t have such an agreement, but it had been operating for the past few years — with the Health Department’s approval — under an exception that allowed it to use backup doctors who can admit patients to hospitals.

The department revoked the clinic’s license after questioning whether it had followed rules to provide backup care for patients.

Haskell said the clinic has had a complication rate of 0.3 percent and no patient deaths in 35 years of operation.

“This fight has everything to do with politics and absolutely nothing to do with patient safety or care,” she said.

Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, an anti-abortion group, praised the clinic’s decision to stop providing surgical abortions but said “concerns still remain” about the possibility that it will offer non-surgical abortions performed with medication.

Langsam said the clinic is looking into the possibility of performing such abortions.

Wednesday’s developments come after a Hamilton County judge ruled Friday that he doesn’t have the jurisdiction to change the Health Department’s decision refusing to renew the clinic’s license.

Langsam said the clinic won’t appeal the order and will stop performing surgical abortions Friday, citing the cost and energy involved in the fight.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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