Ohio Health Director Resigns as Abortion Becomes Hotbed Issue in State Election


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Ted Wymsylo, who recently ordered the closure of an Ohio abortion clinic, is resigning to return to private practice, Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced Tuesday. The resignation, and the legally contested closure order, come as Kasich faces a Democratic opponent who plans to make abortion an issue in the November elections.

Wymsylo, a Kasich appointee, drew criticism from both sides of the abortion debate for ordering the Women’s Med Center in Sharonville to close because it could not comply with state laws requiring either a transfer agreement with a local hospital or a “variance” exempting the clinic from that requirement. Anti-choice forces found the closure order came too slowly, while pro-choice advocates argued that the decision was politically motivated.

“I can’t help but wonder whether the timing of Dr. Wymyslo’s departure indicates that he wasn’t moving fast enough to close abortion clinics to satisfy Governor Kasich and his anti-choice allies,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement.

The state budget Kasich signed last summer put abortion providers in a difficult position by forbidding public hospitals from entering into the kinds of transfer agreements abortion clinics must have to remain open. In some areas of the state, the only private hospitals are religiously affiliated and unwilling to partner with abortion providers. Furthermore, the new law gave the ODH authority to deny clinics a variance for any reason. The Sharonville clinic had been operating safely under a variance since 2010, but found its request for a renewal denied earlier this year.

The clinic remains open while it challenges these requirements, but it is one of four clinics in the western half of the state that are threatened with closure under the new law.

The perception that Kasich’s administration is threatening access to safe abortion care for many Ohio women is a focus point of Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s campaign for the governorship. FitzGerald chose as his running mate Sharen Neuhardt, who is known for being an abortion rights advocate, and the two made their first joint appearance at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio to accept the group’s endorsement.

“Unfortunately, it keeps getting tougher and tougher and tougher for women to avail themselves of rights that they believed they were entitled to,” FitzGerald told reporters at that event.

The state party’s new ground game coordinator, Lauren Harmon, was executive director for Virginia Democrats when Terry McAuliffe won the race for governor in part because of perceptions that his opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, was too extreme on women’s issues.

But Neuhardt has said that focusing only on abortion is too limiting when it comes to women’s health and economic freedom, and cited cuts to Planned Parenthood as evidence that Republican leaders were out of touch and compromising women’s health.

“They callously disregarded the needs of women,” said Neuhardt at a campaign stop. “None of these services where they cut funding are related to abortion.”

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  • Renee Goodwin

    Goodness, the GOP/TEA folks sure like to use the rules to make sure nobody has a fair chance, the clinic can’t get a transfer agreement because the state law was changed to make it illegal for any public aka non-religious hospitals to have an agreement with them. Not only are the transfer agreements bogus, the clinics don’t need an agreement to operate safely, but the state can also make up any excuse they like to deny a variance.