Spurred by rumors a new medical office in Pickerington will be performing abortions, an overflow crowd numbering close to 100 convened upon Pickerington City Hall Feb. 5 to appeal to Pickerington City Council to shut it down.
At issue is the medical office of Dr. Mervyn Samuel, who is in the process of opening Pickerington Medical Center, 670 Hill Road North.
Samuel operates a women's health clinic with his son, Dr. Milroy Samuel, called Complete Health Care for Women on Cleveland Avenue in Columbus that performs abortions.
Samuel's office has maintained that abortions will not be performed at the Pickerington location.
The city of Pickerington's official position is that even if Pickerington Medical Center did perform abortions there remains little or nothing that can be done to stop it because the facility is properly zoned commercial and Federal laws mandate such practices are allowed to operate without governmental obstruction from municipalities.
City Councilman Jeff Fix read a letter at the council meeting outlining the city's stance on the matter.
"We want to make sure everyone has real information about this clinic and fully understands what can and can't be done about it," Fix said.
He went on to say while some residents have suggested city officials have "thrown the community under the bus" for allowing such a clinic to operate in the city, "... there is nothing that can be legally done to prevent this business from locating here."
Many in attendance found little consolation in Fix's explanation, saying such an issue transcends legal constraints.
"It is legal, it doesn't make it right," said Ed Chinnock, Respect Life Coordinator for Seton Parish Catholic Church in Pickerington.
"We would like to do everything in our power to prevent it (from) opening in the first place," Chinnock said.
Chinnock said "abortion devalues life" and he said he believed the new clinic was located between Pickerington High School North and Pickerington High School Central for a reason.
"They want to target the young girls in our high schools," Chinnock said.
Emily Acklin said she was worried the clinic would be attracting "radicals" to the site, which is located next to the Melrose subdivision.
"We will certainly monitor the location," said Mike Taylor, Pickerington police chief.
Melrose resident Thom Laughery said he believed the clinic will negatively effect property values in both the Melrose and Mingo Estate subdivisions.
"That's going to have an impact for a lot of people for a long time," Laughery said.
Cynthia Prokop, also a resident of Melrose, said it's not worth the hassle.
"We may not stay here," Prokop said.
"Now (the clinic) is in our back door," she said. "We'll consider Granville. We'll take a loss on our house and move on."
John Wilson told Mayor Lee Gray and City Council members he would not vote for them "... if you cannot reverse this thing."
Mayor Gray took exception to Wilson's remark.
"Generally I let things go, (but) saying your not going to vote, implying somehow we allowed this-the (zoning) application said 'medical office;' this is where people don't understand the process," Gray said.
"We've got a professional staff that does a fantastic job," Gray said.
City Councilman Gavin Blair said the property has been zoned commercial since 1988 and the medical center hasn't met the requisite zoning standards to open yet.
"They've got a long way to go," Blair said.
City Councilman Brian Sauer said the meeting brought forth "... the single biggest crowd" at a City Council meeting in memory. He encouraged those in attendance to contact their state representatives to express their concerns.
Fix acknowledged the issue was a difficult one for all of City Council.
"We very much believe what you believe," Fix said.
"It wasn't due to lack of homework or digging or lack of understanding," he said.
According to Tess Pollock of the Ohio Department of Health, the Pickerington Medical Center does not have a certification to perform surgical abortions.
"This facility has not applied for that licensure, nor do they currently have one," Pollock said.
The office manager at Complete Healthcare in Columbus, who identified herself as Mrs. M. Samuel, said the Pickerington clinic will not prescribe the so-called "morning after" pill, known as RU-486, either.
She stated the Pickerington Medical Office fulfills a need for women's healthcare in the area.
"There are not many (obstetricians and gynecologists) in that area," Samuel said.
"Patients in Pickerington and Canal Winchester want us to be there," she said.
"They don't have to drive all the way to Columbus," Samuel said.