By Cheryl Sullenger
Columbus, OH — Earlier this month, after a four-year legal process to terminate the abortion facility license of one of the nation’s most notorious late-term abortion facilities, it finally appeared that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) would be allowed to uphold the law. But the abortion facility and the new head of the ODH were about to pull a fast one that left many in the state stunned.
The situation takes a bit of explanation.
In 2015, the ODH began the arduous process of terminating the facility license for Women’s Med Center of Dayton, after having successfully revoked the license of an affiliated abortion facility in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville just a few months earlier.
In January 2014, an ODH spokeswoman commenting on the Sharonville clinic situation told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “There is a history of problems with this particular ambulatory surgery facility and operator. The agency no longer has confidence that this ambulatory surgery facility will take necessary steps to operate in accordance with regulations.”
That “operator” was Martin Haskell, a nationally-known late-term abortion “pioneer” who owned and operated the Dayton and Sharonville abortion facilities. He conducted abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy in Dayton and even claimed that he invented the now-banned Partial Birth Abortion procedure — a claim that is in dispute.
It was clear that the Women’s Med Center in Dayton was run using the same playbook as its untrustworthy Sharonville affiliate.
Both facilities failed to meet licensing requirements, and operated only due to variances approved by the ODH that allowed the clinics to present agreements with back-up physicians to provide hospital care to abortion patients suffering abortion complications in lieu of a written transfer agreement with a local hospital.
But neither Haskell nor any of his employees that conducted abortions held hospital privileges, and no Dayton-area hospital would enter into a written transfer agreement with the notorious abortion business.
Haskell’s back-up doctors that promised to provide hospital care for Women’s Med Center patients would come and go. Haskell had a habit of replacing them at will, without the necessary approval from the ODH.
Some of the physicians listed on his variances were problematic. For example, one such man, Walter T. Bowers II, paid out $250,000 after being sued by a family that lost a wanted baby due to Bowers’ negligence. That caused Kentucky to bar him from the practice of obstetrics and put him under investigation in the State of Indiana. In October, 2011, the Ohio Medical Board reprimanded Bowers for the avoidable death and placed him on two years of probation.
According to Dayton Right to Life, currently there are four physicians from Wright State University that have agreed to provide back-up hospital medical care for Women’s Med Center patients that suffer serious abortion complications. They are Sheela Barhan, Janice Duke, Margaret Dunn, and Jerome Yaklic — a group that is different than listed on previous variances.
But the fact that Haskell assembled this group to manage hospital care for his botched abortion patients does not negate the fact that his back-up physician agreements have been in the past unreliable and ever-changing without proper authorization.
Over the years, two state Attorneys General, Mike DeWine, and most recently Dave Yost, have fought on behalf of a changing cast of ODH Executive Directors for the right to terminate the Dayton Women’s Med Center’s abortion facility license for failing to comply with licensing requirements.
On August 22, 2018, a state appeals court issued a ruling that the ODH Executive Director had every right to terminate the Dayton Women’s Med Center’s abortion license. By October 29, 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court had twice rebuffed Haskell’s appeals. This finally exhausted his legal options at the state level.
It was a hopeful moment when the Women’s Med Center’s attorney Jennifer Branch confirmed that the facility had immediately halted surgical abortions upon hearing the Ohio Supreme Court had declined to reconsider their case.
But that hope shared by pro-life activists was dashed when the newly appointed Executive Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Amy Acton, unexpectedly issued an abortion facility license to Haskell’s abortion clinic just a few days later.
Haskell had quietly submitted a new application for a facility license under a new name, “Women’s Med Dayton.” The old license under the name “Women’s Med Center of Dayton” was indeed terminated on October 29, 2019, but Acton had approved the new variance for the “Women’s Med Dayton” based on the Wright State University physicians’ back-up agreement, according to Dayton Right to Life. It was the first time in six years that a variance had been approved for a Haskell clinic. A new abortion facility license was then formally issued on November 5.
Operation Rescue confirmed that the Women’s Med Center once again began scheduling surgical abortions on that same day.
Acton was appointed to serve as the Executive Director of the Ohio Department of Health by Gov. Mike DeWine in February 2019. Her biography posted on the Department of Health website notes, “Dr. Acton came to ODH from The Columbus Foundation where she served as community research and grants management officer and focused on community leadership and non-profit effectiveness.”
The Columbus Foundation is a philanthropic organization that helps donors connect with organizations for giving purposes. Among the approximately 1,000 non-profit organizations for which the Columbus Foundation solicits donations in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and the NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation. These fell under the purvue of Amy Acton.
This connection between Acton and these two abortion organizations raises questions about Acton’s actions in the paperwork shuffle that allowed the Women’s Med Center – previously deemed “untrustworthy” by the ODH – to become licensed to conduct abortions after four years of litigation found that its license should be denied.
“You can be assured that Dayton Right to Life will never be deterred or discouraged. We will resolutely push on for the protection of women and their unborn children until this facility, and every other one like it, in Ohio is closed,” stated Margie Christie, Executive Director of Dayton Right to Life.
“It is impossible to trust Acton to act in the interests of patient safety after this suspicious move on her part,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “Acton really needs to clarify why she moved in support of this abortion business and tell us what changed – besides a rearrangement of words on paper – that suddenly convinced her that the Women’s Med Center will comply with licensing regulations when they have never done so in the past. I think she has a lot of explaining to do.”