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Letter to the editor: Reinstate agreements, keep women safe

President of the UT Medical Students for Choice

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 23:04

We are very disappointed by the recent decision made by University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs to abruptly cancel medical transfer agreements with the Center for Choice and Capital Care Network. The Center for Choice and Capital Care Network provide a vital health service to the women of Northwest Ohio by providing safe pregnancy terminations. The withdrawal of this agreement is concerning as both abortion clinics may be forced to close if they are unable to secure agreements elsewhere. 

To be sure, abortion, when performed by a skilled-practitioner, is one of the safest medical procedures. Less than 0.5% of all abortions require additional surgery or hospitalization. In fact, in the U.S. risk of death associated with childbirth is 14 times higher than that associated with legal induced abortion.  However, as with any medical procedure, serious complications arising from surgical abortion are possible including blood clots, perforation of organs, infections, and excessive bleeding.  If women experiencing these complications are not able to obtain emergency treatment, death may be imminent. 

The decision of Dr. Jacobs to state that the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) has decided to “no longer pursue the establishment of a contractual relationship” with the Center for Choice and Capital Care Network has serious health implications for the women of Toledo – and from a public health perspective is poor health practice. 

History has shown us that when safe abortion services are not accessible, this does not stop women from having abortions. They just have unsafe abortions, and at later gestations. No, contrary to claims made by Ohio Right to Life, forcing the local abortion clinics to close does not help women or their families they leave behind. It is well documented that in nations where women are unable to obtain abortion services, a substantial fraction of maternal deaths are attributed to unsafe abortion – the majority of which are preventable if women had access to safe abortion services.

Dr. Jacobs’ decision bears further legal scrutiny as UTMC is a Medicare-participating hospital, and Federal law requires via the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) that any Medicare-participating hospital ensure public access to emergency services, and stabilize patients within their capability. 

Thus, UTMC cannot in practice refuse to provide life-saving treatment to a woman who presents to the Emergency Department with post-abortion complications. What Dr. Jacobs has done with his actions of canceling the transfer agreements with the Center for Choice and Capital Care Network, is attempt to take away women’s ability to access safe-abortion services — a legal medical procedure.

Should women of Toledo suffer serious complications from self-induced abortions due to inability to access safe abortion services as a result of closure of these clinics, UTMC must provide care to them. But regardless of the law, UTMC should provide care to these women because it is the right thing to do.

The University of Toledo Medical Students for Choice are utterly dismayed at our institution’s willingness to place women’s health in jeopardy to pacify the Ohio Right to Life. We request that the transfer agreements are reinstated immediately. Otherwise, it is meaningless we pride ourselves on a “higher degree of healing.”

Carolyn Payne, president of UT Medical Students for Choice

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