Anti-Abortion Groups Think Closed Ohio Clinic Should Be An Abortion Memorial

Center for Choice closed its doors in Toledo, Ohio, in 2013, after the state penalized the clinic for not having a written transfer agreement with a private, local hospital. Now, Ohio anti-abortion activists want to turn the clinic into an abortion memorial, because why bother opening a new clinic for women in the Toledo area? At least, that's the thought process behind the anti-abortion groups Foundation for Life and Greater Toledo Right to Life, reports Toledo Blade.

When Center for Choice shut its doors in 2013, it was one of just two abortion providers in Toledo, which has a greater metropolitan-area population of more than 650,000 residents. Toledo's last remaining abortion clinic, Capital Care Network, is currently hanging on by a court injunction granted in August. If Capital Care Network were to close, Toledo women seeking abortion would have to travel about two hours east to Cleveland, or more than two hours south to Columbus, to visit the nearest clinic.

Instead of mourning the steady shuttering of abortion clinics in Ohio, anti-abortion activists are instead mourning terminated pregnancies that occurred at Center for Choice. According to the Blade, a collective of anti-abortion groups in the area have plans to raze the clinic and create a memorial garden for the unborn.

Ed Sitter, executive director of Greater Toledo Right to Life, told the news source:

This is not a statement about being against abortion. This is about paying respect and honor to the babies who died there.

Mike McCartney, who serves as board president of Foundation for Life and Greater Toledo Right to Life, compared the razing of the clinic as "a sphinx rising from the ashes." He added to Toledo Blade that a memorial garden would be a "prevailing symbol of life" and not a symbol of "death," which is evidently the feeling you get when you walk by an abortion clinic in your neighborhood.

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Carol Dunn, the founder of Center for Choice, is, rightfully, a little miffed that the anti-abortion groups want to transform the deserted clinic into a memorial garden that, she believes, will just take up space without adding much to the community. Dunn questioned why anti-abortion groups, who claim they care about women and children, won't make something useful out of the space. You know, like a medical facility to help pregnant women who've decided to carry their pregnancies to term, or a center to help single mothers.

Dunn told the Toledo Blade:

If they are really committed to serving women and the unborn, they have a perfect facility to do that. There is plenty of room for counseling; there could be a nurse practitioner there; it could be a place for women who don’t have an education but have children and to help them improve their lives.
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Although much of the national attention on abortion has been focused on the year-long clinic battles in Texas, Ohio has seen a number of clinic closures — with more possibly on the way. The state had 14 abortion clinics in 2013, and is now down to just eight, according to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Compare that to the number of clinics in 2011 — 18 — and it's easy to see that anti-abortion lawmakers have been doing a fine job over the last year in impeding abortion access.

Just last week, Cincinnati's sole abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood's Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center, received a citation from the state government for not having a written transfer agreement with a private hospital — the same law the forced Toledo's Center for Choice to close. The Cincinnati-area clinic is now in jeopardy. If it closes, it means Cincinnati would be the largest metropolitan area without an abortion provider, according to The Enquirer. Women in the area — which not only includes southwest Ohio but also parts of Indiana and Kentucky — would have to drive hundreds of miles round trip to either Columbus, Indianapolis or Louisville.

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It's worth noting that clinics in Ohio are being forced to close because local hospitals refuse to enter transfer agreements with abortion providers, partly due to an intense anti-abortion atmosphere. This harassment, says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, could also be intimidating the clinics left standing, including a Columbus center that stopped providing surgical abortions in August. Copeland said in a statement:

For months, anti-choice extremists have targeted the doctors at Complete Healthcare for Women because they provided their patients with abortion care in addition to their other obstetric and gynecological services. These doctors have been harassed at their practice, leaflets calling them "killers” have been distributed in their neighborhood and protesters have picketed a hospital where they have admitting privileges. I would not be surprised if this campaign of harassment played a role in their decision to stop providing abortion care to their patients.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio estimates that just four Ohio abortion clinics will be left by the end of 2014, leaving the entire western half of Ohio without an abortion provider. However, if anti-abortion groups have their way, it will leave western Ohio with a memorial garden for the unborn.

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