By Cheryl Sullenger

Dayton, Ohio – The Women’s Med Dayton abortion facility has been the controversial subject of licensing issues for over eight years.  Since September 2013, the notorious late-term abortion facility has struggled to comply with the state’s licensing requirement that abortion facilities maintain a valid Hospital Transfer Agreement, or an approved variance that would provide the same level of care as a Hospital Transfer Agreement.

According to recent correspondence between Women’s Med Dayton’s attorney and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), published by Dayton Right to Life, the abortion facility’s most recent request for a variance has been denied by ODH Director Bruce Vanderhoff.

“Dayton Right to Life is thankful for the Ohio Department of Health’s commitment to the healthcare of women and for ensuring ambulatory surgical facilities are following acceptable medical standards. We hope this facility will be closed soon, so the unborn children receive protection as well.” said Margie Christie, Executive Director, Dayton Right to Life, in a written statement.

This means Women’s Med Dayton is out of regulatory compliance. But will that really be enough for this abortion facility to finally close?

How we got here

A brief recap of events in this lengthy ordeal is necessary to fully appreciate the current situation.

Women’s Med Dayton for years went by the name Women’s Med Center of Dayton.  It is owned and operated by the infamous late-term abortionist Martin Haskell and his wife, Valerie.  It famously is one of the few abortion facilities in the nation to conduct late-term abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy.  In Women’s Med Dayton’s case, the latest of abortions are done for “fetal anomaly” and “women’s health” issues.

The Women’s Med Center first requested a variance from the ODH on November 20, 2013.  Several revised variance requests were submitted over time involving back-up physician agreements with Wright State Physicians but were all rejected by then ODH Director Richard Hodges in June 2015.

Legal appeals ensued all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ultimately sided with the ODH’s variance denial and order to close the Women’s Med Center.  On September 21, 2019 – nearly six years after the first request was made – the Ohio Supreme Court refused to reconsider Haskell’s request for reconsideration, officially ending his legal appeals.

[Read a timeline of events related to Women’s Med Center/Women’s Med Dayton on Dayton Right to Life’s website]

Meanwhile, in February 2019, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, selected Amy Acton to serve as the new Executive Director of the ODH.  Acton was a life-long Democrat who worked on Barack Obama’s first Presidential Campaign in 2008, and had connections to important Democrats.  Those facts are important contextually because the Executive Director of the ODH has the sole discretion to approve or reject variance applications. 

Just as pro-life supporters were waiting in the fall of 2019 for the ODH to shut down the Women’s Med Center or for Haskell to announce the closure of his late-term abortion facility, Amy Acton stepped in.

Acton suggested that Haskell terminate his Women’s Med Center business (on paper) to satisfy the court order, and immediately switch to a new business entity with a slightly changed name. 

The old ambulatory surgical facility license under the name “Women’s Med Center of Dayton” was indeed terminated on October 29, 2019.  Acton approved the new variance for the same facility under the new name “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 to Women’s Med Dayton on November 5, 2019. The new license carried an expiration date of November 30, 2020.

There was outrage over Acton’s clandestine move to keep Women’s Med Dayton operational, which added to the existing public dissatisfaction over her mishandling of the COVID-19 situation in Ohio. An interview with Acton’s estranged mother published by Operation Rescue on June 3, 2020, cast doubt on Acton’s truthfulness and emotional stability. Two weeks later, Acton submitted her resignation.

Attempts to renew license

In preparation for filing for a license renewal application, Women’s Med Dayton submitted a new variance request on September 14, 2020, that was based on emergency back-up physician agreements with Sheela Barhan, Janice Duke, Margaret M. Dunn, and David N. Dhanraj, who replaced Jerome L. Yaklic on the variance in April 2020.

The ODH sat on the variance application long after the November, 2020, license expiration date.  Finally, on August 30, 2021, it was finally denied by Vanderhoff.  However, the ODH allowed the abortion facility to continue operating on an expired license and without an approved variance since November 30, 2020.

With new attorneys from the Case Western University School of Law, the Women’s Med Dayton submitted a letter to the ODH on September 13, 2021, seeking a reconsideration of the denial.

Vanderhoff responded on November 12, 2021, denying the request for reconsideration because Dunn was not board certified as an ObGyn.  He emphasized that the variance denial was final.

Where things stand now

Operation Rescue confirmed on Monday, December 6, 2021, that Women’s Med Dayton is still open and taking appointments for abortions.

The Ambulatory Surgical Facility License status for the Women’s Med Dayton on the ODH website clearly shows the facility’s license expired on November 30, 2020, but the license is inexplicably listed as “Active.”

Operation Rescue reached out with a phone call to the ODH for more information, but the call went unreturned as of the time this report was published.

It appears that the ODH is continuing to allow the Women’s Med Dayton to operate without an approved variance or valid ambulatory surgical facility license.  In fact, the ODH has chronically allowed abortion facilities to operate – sometimes for years – on expired licenses. That is a problem that Operation Rescue has been addressing since 2014.

During the eight-year long scandal over licensing over the Hospital Transfer Agreement variance, Women’s Med Center continued to injure and hospitalize women due to serious abortion complications.

“Without an approved variance, Women’s Med Dayton cannot qualify for a renewal of its expired facility license.  It should be ordered to shut down immediately,” said Newman. “According to Ohio’s own regulations, without an approved transfer agreement and valid facility license, it is illegal for this abortion business to continue to operate.  Eight years is far too long to play games with the lives of women and babies while the abortion business continues to operate for the most part without proper licensing. Everyone knows that this abortion facility has hurt women and will continue hurting women as it profits from taking the lives of innocent children in the womb. This charade needs to end now.”

Take Action!

Please contact the Ohio Department of Health and ask why the Women’s Med Dayton is allowed to continue abortions on an expired license and without an approved variance.  Politely demand the immediate closure of the Women’s Med Dayton.

Contact:  James Hodge, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Regulatory Operations

Phone: 614-644-6220