- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Anti-abortion activists hoping to shutter a southwest Ohio abortion clinic are targeting the offices, homes and neighborhoods of gynecologists and obstetricians whose help is needed for the facility to meet a state mandate.

Created Equal has placed photos of Wright State University physicians who assist Women’s Med Center of Dayton in emergencies on its truck bearing bloody-fetus photos. They’ve traveled the area in the vehicle and parked it outside doctors’ residences and offices. Postcards to their neighbors describe the doctors as “killers among us.”

The group recently extended the campaign to OB-GYN doctors unaffiliated with the clinic. Executive director Mark Harrington said the letters have be sent to all those who live within 30 miles of Miami Valley Hospital warning of similar treatment if they help the clinic.

“They’re not happy about it, obviously, which is the point,” Harrington said. “We believe that if you’re going to be complicit in abortion that there’s going to be a price to pay and that price is public relations, that price is your own profile in the community.”

The push follows a host of new abortion restrictions recently imposed in Ohio. At least a half-dozen clinics have closed or reduced services over several years.

Women’s Med Center co-owner Valerie Haskell said targeting doctors who help the clinic in emergencies, as state law requires, is unfair.

“These physicians are heroes to the two million females residing in southwestern Ohio, especially considering one out of every three will have an abortion in their lifetime,” she said. “Intimidation and harassment should not be allowed to jeopardize abortion access for millions of people. Combined with some of the most egregious anti-abortion laws in the nation, it demonstrates how desperate Governor Kasich and his allies are to push Ohio women back to the 1950s.”

Last month, the Ohio Department of Health denied the clinic’s request for an exception to rules requiring it to have a patient-transfer agreement with a hospital in case of emergencies. The facility has sought such a variance since 2012. It has said two doctors could provide ample emergency coverage to patients.

It is now working to recruit a third backup physician after state health director Rick Hodges denied its latest request June 26. He said the arrangement wasn’t enough to ensure patient safety and gave the clinic 30 days to file another request or potentially lose its license.

Hodges’ letter came hours after a negotiating panel of state lawmakers agreed to add to Ohio’s budget a provision giving facilities two months to obtain state permission to operate without a transfer agreement or must close. That requirement is now law.

Harrington said the group is not intimidating doctors but informing them.

“We didn’t blind-side them,” he said. “It’s protected under the First Amendment what we’re doing. We’re just offering them an opportunity to opt out so they don’t have to come under this scrutiny. So it’s really on them.”

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