By Cheryl Sullenger
Columbus, OH — What would you think if you were told that no abortion facility in your home state held a current facility license as required by law, yet all of them continued to do abortions that were technically illegal – with full knowledge of state authorities?
That is not simply a hypothetical situation in Ohio. It is the scandalous reality.
Operation Rescue confirmed this week that out of eleven abortion facilities in that state, none hold current, active Ambulatory Surgical Facility licenses. While applications for licensure or license renewal have been made by all but one abortion facility, the Ohio Department of Health has not approved or denied their licensing applications. Some have been pending for over a year — one facility has been waiting since 2012 for licensing renewal — even though the law requires that ASF licenses be renewed annually.
Making this even more troubling is the fact that there has been no delay in the renewal of licenses for non-abortion facilities, leading to concerns that abortion facilities are being given too much leniency when they cannot comply with licensing laws.
Meanwhile, most of the abortion facilities continue to offer surgical abortions despite not meeting the requirements for legal operation in Ohio.
“Why are abortion facilities in Ohio allowed to operate with no valid facility license? If these abortion centers cannot meet the qualifications provided by law for licensing, then they should be immediately shut down,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “There’s really no excuse for allowing substandard abortion businesses to continue operating outside the law.”
Closing: Complete Healthcare for Women
In spite of this troubling licensing fiaso, there is one bright spot. Complete Healthcare for Women in Columbus, will no longer be offering surgical abortions after Friday, August 29. The bad news is that an Operation Rescue undercover investigator was offered a surgical abortion appointment at that facility on August 27 even though the ODH website indicates that the facility is already closed and its ASF license is no longer in effect.
That would make surgical abortions done there illegal.
Complete Healthcare for Women is telling callers it plans to stay open but will no longer be offering abortions either by surgery or by the abortion pill.
Complete Healthcare for Women has a documented history of OSHA violations and botched abortions.
However, other abortion facilities operating on expired license or none at all continue doing surgical abortions — some openly and some under the regulatory radar.
Below is a summary of the licensing situation at each Ohio abortion facility. Curiously, the ODH lists many of the facilities with expired licenses as having “active” license statuses, creating a logical paradox. It really is really possible to have an active license that is expired as well?
Akron Women’s Medical Group
Located on E. Market Street in Akron, the Akron Women’s Medical Group is affiliated with the Cleveland Surgi-Center that recently relocated to Shaker Heights. It openly provides both surgical and medication abortion via the abortion pill. However, its facility license expired on April 30, 2013.
This abortion facility has a history of willingness to not report suspected child sex abuse along with botched abortions.
Cleveland Surgi-Center (aka Cleveland Women’s Medical Group)
The Cleveland Surgi-Center was forced to move from its Pearl Road office in Cleveland in June after the property manager refused to renew its lease. Two months after moving out, it is now operating under three different names on Warrensville Center Road in Shaker Heights, an exclusive suburb of Cincinnati. The Cleveland Surgi-Center is also calling itself Cleve-Surgi Center, Inc. and Cleveland Women’s Medical Group – none of which are currently licensed as an ASF. In fact, there is no evidence that even an application for licensure has been made.
Even so, the Cleveland Surgi-Center’s website is actively advertising surgical abortions at their new facility on Warrensville Center Road in Shaker Heights and currently booking surgical appointments. However, according to Operation Rescue’s research, the abortion facility is giving out conflicting information to callers about whether abortions are actually being done at the new office. They appear to be sending at least some women to their affiliated abortion facility in Akron, which is currently operating under an expired AFS license.
Operation Rescue documented two recent medical emergencies by Cleveland Surgi-Center at its Pearl Road location, raising serious safety concerns about this facility’s operators.
Founder’s Women’s Health Center
Founder’s Women’s Health Center in Columbus is affiliated with the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center, in Cuyahoga Falls. According to the ODH Ambulatory Surgical Facilities listing, Founder’s ASF license has been expired since March 31, 2014. It remains open for business and conducting surgical abortions in violation of the law while it awaits notification of its license renewal or denial from the Ohio Department of Health.
Founder’s abortionist, Harley Blank, has been sued for malpractice.
Northeast Ohio Women’s Center
The Northeast Ohio Women’s Center (NEOWC) recently bought out the old Capital Care Network abortion business in Cuyahoga Falls and began operations under the new owner, abortionist David Burkons. Its ASF license status is listed as “pending,” indicating that an application has been made but licensing has not yet been approved.
Denise Leipold, Director of Northeast Ohio Right to Life, told Operation Rescue that she was able to schedule a surgical abortion at the Cuyahoga Falls facility about two months ago despite the lack of licensure. She notified the ODH that NEOWC appeared to be illegally conducting surgical abortions.
Then on July 30, 2014, former interim ODH Director Lance Himes, sent a letter to Burkons notifying him of the ODH’s intent that deny his license application. Serious violations were discovered during an inspection at the facility, including a lack of required policies and procedures, no emergency care plan, inadequately trained staff, drug violations, and more.
However, a NEOWC receptionist told an Operation Rescue undercover investigator that the clinic still has plans to offer surgical abortions in the future, but failed to mention that their license application has been denied.
Burkons continues to dispense the abortion pill at NEOWC even though he has no ability to conduct surgical abortions when the pill fails in 7-20 percent of cases, depending on gestational age when the pills are prescribed. While this practice is not illegal, it essentially abandons women suffering from incomplete medication abortions, leaving them on their own to seek emergency care that Burkons cannot legally provide.
To make matters worse, Burkons is responsible for 41 percent of all complications from medication abortions in Ohio – the highest in the state – according to reporting forms filed with the Medical Board of Ohio. That fact does not bode well for Ohio women.
Toledo Women’s Center (AKA Capital Care Network)
In a letter dated August 2, 2013, the Toledo Women’s Center, also known as the Capital Care Network, was informed of the ODH’s intent to shut down the clinic due to a failure to obtain a hospital transfer agreement. The abortion facility’s ASF license expired on April 30, 2013, but it continued to operate, business as usual.
In February, 2014, an administrative hearing was held and the hearing officer rejected the abortion business’ proposed transfer agreement with a Michigan hospital, fifty miles away. After a series of legal maneuvers, the ODH finally issued a closure order and gave the facility until August 12 to shut down.
The following day, the Toledo Women’s Center received a stay from a judge. Even though it has no required hospital transfer agreement or valid license, and has known for over a year it is in violation of the law, the abortion center remains open for business conducting surgical abortions with no arrangement for emergency care in the event of abortion complications.
Toledo Women’s Center is Affiliated with abortionist David Burkons and the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center.
The Preterm abortion facility in Cleveland was the site of a botched late-term abortion that resulted in the death of Lakisha Wilson in March. Pro-life groups called on the ODH to shut down the obviously dangerous abortion facility. As the groups addressed the media at an April 2 news conference, ODH representatives were inside Preterm conducting a facility inspection.
What was unknown at the time is that Preterm’s ASF license had expired on March 31, 2014, just two days before. Nevertheless, the ODH has taken no known measures to halt abortions there despite Preterm’s expired license and at least one patient death.
“If the law says that an abortion facility requires a license in order to operate, then if the license has expired, it should be closed down. If my driver’s license were to expire, I would not be allowed to legally drive until I got it renewed. If I was pulled over by police with an expired license, I would be ticketed. Yet nothing is happening to these abortion centers when their licenses expire. They just continue to operate in spite of the law,” said Newman. “If they can’t meet licensing requirements or their licenses expire, these facilities must be shut down in the interest of public safety and the rule of law. What good are laws if no one will enforce them?”
Preterm is also the site of a Buffett family-funded Ryan Residency Program, which trains new doctors to do abortions.
Women’s Med Center
The notorious late-term abortionist Martin Haskell operates the Women’s Med Center in Dayton, which is known for specializing extremely late-term abortions of the kind done by LeRoy Carhart in Maryland and Shelley Sella and Susan Robinson in Albuquerque, New Mexico, all former associates of the infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller.
Women’s Med Center in Dayton was operating under a “variance” which allowed it to forgo the required hospital transfer agreement as long as it maintained an approved agreement with two physicians to provide hospital care to abortion patients suffering serious complications.
In 2012, Haskell sought renewal of his ASF license, which expired on August 31, 2012. The ODH has not approved or denied his applications. In 2013, Haskell requested a renewal of his variance, which allowed him to operate his abortion facility with out a required hospital transfer agreement. The Women’s Med Center has continued supplying abortions over the past two years – including the more risky second and third trimester variety – despite having no active ASF license or approved hospital transfer agreement or variance as required by law.
“What happened to the requirement that an ASF license be renewed each year? While we appreciate the ODH revoking Haskell’s Sharonville ASF license, the Dayton facility seems to be getting away with the very behavior that cost his Sharonville abortion business its license,” said Newman. “The Dayton abortion center should be closed immediately as well.”
Haskell’s Sharonville Women’s Med Center location was denied a similar variance and license renewal by the ODH after years of legal wrangling. Haskell agreed to halt surgical abortions as of last Friday, August 22, but had none-the-less operated without an active variance or ASF license at that facility for about two years. That facility is temporarily closed.
Planned Parenthood – Campbell Medical Center
Planned Parenthood’s abortion facility in Cincinnati continues to offer surgical abortions today, boasting of being the Cincinnati area’s last surviving abortion facility.
However, Planned Parenthood’s ASF license expired on May 31, 2013, and has never been approved for renewal, placing its abortion operations outside the law.
Planned Parenthood – Bedford Heights Health Center
The Bedford Heights Planned Parenthood abortion center, located in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, is simply an abortion referral center, according to information on Planned Parenthood’s web site. However, Operation Rescue confirmed that this facility operates a heavy schedule of surgical abortions.
Why list the Bedford Heights facility as only offering abortion referrals?
Perhaps because its ASF license expired on December 31, 2013, and has not been approved for renewal, an inconvenience hasn’t stopped this abortion center from operating outside Ohio law.
This Planned Parenthood abortion facility was fined $25,000 on July 30, 2014, for violating state code and operating an unsanitary clinic. Why it was not shut down remains a mystery.
Planned Parenthood – East Health Center
This Columbus abortion facility operated by Planned Parenthood conducts surgical abortions but does so without the legally required ASF license. Theirs expired on December 31, 2013. The ODH has taken no action to approve or deny its renewal application in at least eight months, during which time the abortion business has been allowed to operate in violation of state laws.
Who is responsible?
Certainly the abortion facilities in Ohio are more than willing to continue selling and supplying abortions whether they have a license or not. These businesses are more than willing to push the legal envelope as far as possible in order to keep their money stream intact even if it is at the expense of the lives and health of their patients.
However, the Ohio Department of Health must shoulder a portion of the blame. It has been their policy of delaying action on Ambulatory Surgical Facility applications and renewals that has allowed abortion facilities to continue operating on long-expired or inactive licenses.
The ODH’s willingness turn a blind eye to facilities that are operating without proper licensure is a failure of the ODH’s enforcement duties.
While the ODH has worked tirelessly to shut down Martin Haskell’s Sharonville abortion mill and is now attempting to close the substandard Toledo center, it simply isn’t doing all it should to protect women and their babies from abortion facilities that can’t or won’t obey the law.
In addition, Ohio law contains a huge loophole that the State Legislature must address. Currently, non-licensed facilities that fall outside the ODH’s oversight authority are allowed to freely dispense abortion drugs without any capacity to treat incomplete abortions, a common complication that requires surgical completion. This omission in the law leaves women exposed to inadequate or delayed treatment for a potentially life-threatening complication that occurs at a minimum in seven percent of all medication abortions.
We urge the Ohio Legislature to seal up that legal loophole before someone dies from this lapse in continuity of care.
We also urge the Ohio Department of Health to act immediately to clear up the licensing fiasco that is allowing abortion facilities to thumb their proverbial noses at the law.
“If an abortion facility’s AFS license is expired or inactive, shut it down until it can meet the legal requirements for licensure. It’s really as simple as that,” said Newman.
Please contact the Ohio Department of Health and demand that abortion facilities with expired or inactive licensed be immediately shut down.
Ohio Department of Health
Richard Hodges, Director
Phone: (614) 466-3543