CINCINNATI, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- One of two Cincinnati abortion clinics may close after the Ohio Department of Health denied a variance to get around a new patient-transfer law, officials said.
Women's Med, a health clinic that provides women with abortion services, requested the reprieve from a law passed as part of the state budget that prohibits abortion clinics from entering into patient-transfer agreements with taxpayer-funded hospitals, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Tuesday.
Women's groups have argued patient-transfer laws, which have been passed in nine states, are not necessary and are instead intended to shut down abortion clinics. Proponents argue they are meant to ensure patients' safety.
In the Women's Med case, the clinic operator, Martin Haskell, sought a variance because no private hospital in the area would enter into the agreement. The other Cincinnati metro area abortion clinic faces the same problem and has requested a similar variance, though the state Department of Health has yet to make a decision in that case, the Enquirer reported.
A state Department of Health spokeswoman said the Women's Med decision was not related to the patient transfer issue but a result of concerns over the clinic's operation and its failure to request permission to hire two backup physicians who were asked to provide emergency care on an on-call basis, the newspaper said.
"There is a history of problems with this particular ambulatory surgery facility and operator," a health department spokeswoman wrote in an email. "The agency no longer has confidence that this ambulatory surgery facility will take necessary steps to operate in accordance with regulations."
Haskell has filed a lawsuit seeking to challenge the state's ruling. The newspaper said it is likely the clinic will remain open until the suit is resolved.
If both clinics were to close it would make the Cincinnati metro area, population 2.1 million, the largest in the country without an abortion provider, the Enquirer said.