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Right to Life leader wins support for state medical board reappointment

(October 3, 2017) — Despite complaints from abortion-rights supporters, Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis is one step closer to getting another five-year term on the State Medical Board.

The Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee voted in favor of Gonidakis’ appointment Tuesday. This would be Gonidakis’ second term on the board, the governmental agency responsible for licensing and regulating physicians and other medical professionals.

The committee’s two Democrats present, Sens. Edna Brown of Toledo and Vernon Sykes of Akron, voted not to confirm Gonidakis’ reappointment. But seven Republicans senators on the panel who were at the hearing voted yes.

Sykes said he opposed Gonidakis’ appointment because he fears Gonidakis can’t be impartial.

On the flip side, Sen. Scott Oelslager backed Gonidakis’ reappointment, citing his credentials.

“He’s done an excellent job,” the Canton Republican said.

Sen. Jay Hottinger also chimed in with his support.

“I’m not aware of any problems or specific conflicts of interest that were created during his previous term,” the Republican from Newark said.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said he expects the full Senate to confirm the appointment.

“Any questions anyone has about his experience or qualifications ought to be answered by the fact that he’s already done this job before for several years,” he said.

Gov. John Kasich first appointed Gonidakis to the medical board in October 2012; that term expired at the end of July.

Before Tuesday’s committee hearing, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio sounded off on Gonidakis’ appointment. “This appointment is a clear conflict of interest. Just like anyone else, Ohio Right to Life has the ability to file complaints against medical providers; but with Gonidakis on the board, they also get to investigate and decide punishment,” said the abortion rights group’s executive director, Kellie Copeland, in a statement.

For part of his first term, Gonidakis served as the board’s president, a post chosen by board members. In August 2016, groups representing doctors, consumers and women wanted Gonidakis’ removed as president, alleging conflicts of interest.

At issue was a complaint filed by Right to Life with the medical board naming doctors at a Dayton abortion clinic, paralleling an earlier complaint by the Ohio Department of Health.

The day the complaint came out, Ohio Right to Life issued a news release Gonidakis forwarded to Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio, one of the groups that called for his dismissal. He included a personal note: “Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health.’ So sad.”

Gonidakis recused himself from the matter, and the Ohio Ethics Commission cleared Gonidakis of conflict-of-interest accusations later that year, finding no evidence he involved himself in the complaint process against the clinic.