Regardless of your position on abortion rights, you should view Gov. John Kasich’s appointments to the Ohio State Medical Board with great concern.

Governors appoint members of the board, which is tasked with protecting patients by licensing certain medical providers and disciplining those who undermine patient care.

Kasich, however, is using his discretion to quietly stack the panel with members who appear to be most interested in promoting their anti-abortion views – even if it means undercutting Ohio’s vital health care sector.

If these appointees occurred in a vacuum, I would not be quite so concerned. But this governor has enacted a string of new restrictions on abortion care and repeatedly refused to take a position on the so-called heartbeat bill which is so extreme and potentially harmful to patients and doctors that the overwhelmingly anti-choice Ohio Senate refused to pass it.

Today, just 10 of the 12 Medical Board slots are filled, and three of the 10 are well-known opponents of abortion.  Kasich has filled two of the designated consumer slots with Michael Gonidakis, who heads Ohio Right to Life, and former Ohio Right to Life board member Laurie Elsass.  In April, Kasich tapped cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Sushil M. Sethi, for one of the nine physician slots.

In July, when the board discussed licensing for genetic counselors, Dr. Sethi sounded more like an Ohio Right To Life representative than a heart surgeon.  According to minutes of the meeting:

Dr. Sethi asked how the practice of genetic counseling will affect the abortion rate as more tests are developed to detect the possibility of a genetic disease in an unborn child….”

Dr. Shawn McCandless, a member of the genetics faculty at Case Western Reserve, responded: 

Dr. McCandless “opined that there is greater potential for limiting the conception of children with genetic defects than there is to increase the demand for termination.”

“Dr. Sethi asked if there are any ethical behavior controls for genetic counselors to prevent them from swaying their patients decisions regarding abortion. “

 “Dr. McCandless stated that genetic counselors have very clear and demanding ethical standards. Dr. McCandless stated that any genetic counselor who is advocating abortion or, in some way, is pushing a person to have an abortion would be in danger of losing their certification. Ethically, genetic counselors are required …  to inform patients of all legal options in a factual manner, including informing them of the many happy families who have raised a child with the genetic defect in question, as well as options for adoption. Dr. McCandless opined that there is a misconception that geneticists and genetic counselors think that abortion is a good thing.”

More than a dozen states license genetic counselors. While licensing requirements vary, each state requires a detailed set of rules that resulted from much debate.  Was Dr. Sethi really unaware of the ethical requirements common in the genetic testing field?

Joining Dr. Sethi in his concerns was fellow medical board member Mr. Gonidakis who asked “if the rapid increase in autism and the many theories as to its cause’’ could cause genetic counselors  into “ scaring couples into making decisions that probably are not the right decisions.’’

Dr. McCandless responded by saying, “counselors will serve patients by answering their questions in a factual and straight forward manner.’’

Medical board members should know that all doctors better serve patients with factual and straight forward answers


Kellie Copeland is the Executive Director at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio

  • Retrofuturistic

    Not surprised. Kasich already stacked the Ohio Board of Education and the ODE with charter school supporters and Creationists. Why wouldn’t he also stack the Medical Board? Uck.

  • Mark Schrider

    No one who is NOT an MD or DO has ANY business on the medical board of any state, let alone this one. Gonidakis’ undergrad degree was political science with his JD later. He is not qualified to make ANY decision regarding medical issues save perhaps on their legal impact to patients.

  • anastasjoy

    “Probably not the right decisions?” In other words, these counselors should play God and impose decisions that the medical board has decided are the correct ones. Also, if counselors are requires to tell patients about he “many happy families” who have raised children with defects, shouldn’t they also be required to provide evidence about the many families whose emotional and financial resources are stressed to the breaking point, including documented evidence of its impact on siblings who are less successful and more dysfunctional as a result of family stress?

  • anastasjoy

    Also, why is a member of the medical board asking about genetic counselors “scaring” couples into terminating a pregnancy over autism, which cannot be detected prior to birth (and often for quite a while after)? That alone should disqualify him from serving on this board.

    And if he is so interested in autism, what is he doing to help families with such a child get the care and education he or she needs to reach maximum potential? That can be extremely expensive and often has such families tearing their hair out in frustration, anger, and heartache. Has Mr. “Right to Life” been out advocating for a massive increase in funding for services for special needs children?

  • dmoore2222

    Keep digging, Johnny!

  • dmoore2222

    This is almost like a political death wish. Doesn’t Kasich realize the blowback he’ll get from women on this? Republicans already have a big deficit with women voters. Are they that arrogant to think they can just will this stuff?

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