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Officials defend transfer agreement that could save Toledo's last abortion clinic

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TOLEDO, Ohio — Officials say it's reasonable for a University of Michigan hospital to be the emergency-transfer provider for the last abortion clinic left in Toledo — even though it's more than 50 miles away.

A signed pact between the University of Michigan Health System and the Capital Care Clinic puts the clinic in compliance with a state law requiring abortion providers to have a transfer agreement with a "local" hospital, a spokeswoman for the university told The (Toledo) Blade (http://bit.ly/1jdHH4i ).

"We are a regional system, and we do consider Toledo to be part of our service area," hospital spokeswoman Denise Gray-Felder said.

Anti-abortion rights activists, however, question how a hospital nearly an hour from Toledo can be considered "local."

Much of the discussion at a hearing in Columbus this week centered on responding to an emergency within 30 minutes. On a good day, it would take at least 53 minutes to transfer a patient from Toledo to Ann Arbor, said Kayla Smith of Ohio Right to Life.

The Toledo clinic is one of several abortion providers that have run into trouble with the transfer agreement issue since last summer, when a provision of the state budget made the requirement a law instead of a department rule and banned public hospitals from making agreements.

Capital Care had a one-year deal in place with the University of Toledo Medical Center, but the hospital opted not to renew it as of last July 31. No private hospital in the region was willing to take its place.

Kellie Copeland of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice said any medical emergency at a clinic could be handled at Toledo hospitals, whose emergency rooms can't legally turn away any patient.

"This is not an argument about public safety," Copeland said. "This is a gotcha game that the Kasich administration has set up to close clinics."

The Ohio Department of Health is expected to make the final decision on Capital Care clinic sometime in June.


Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/

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