For the second time in a week, a Hamilton County judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood and against a recently passed state law on abortion services.
Hamilton County Judge Alison Hatheway gave Planned Parenthood a two-week restraining order, preventing a law banning telemedicine abortion services from taking effect as planned on April 12.
The clinics and the ACLU sued to challenge Senate Bill 260, which prohibits the use of telemedicine in medication abortions, a procedure in which a two-pill regimen is used rather than a surgical procedure. The law also creates a felony offense for physicians who conduct abortion services using telemedicine.
Planned Parenthood said the use of telemedicine is a promotion of health care access, not a lessening of the quality of care provided by clinics.
“Bans on the use of telemedicine abortion have nothing to do with safeguarding patients’ health — they only make it harder for patients to access care that’s safe and effective,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement on the decision.
Emily Pelphrey, an attorney representing the Ohio Department of Health, asked that the court deny the restraining order to give the state more time to gather evidence and reply to the lawsuit.
Judge Hatheway said a hearing on a more long-term decision for the case would be scheduled for April 19, giving both sides time to present their full cases.
Anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life criticized the telemedicine decision, and president Mike Gonidakis said “allowing Planned Parenthood to ignore Ohio’s critical health and safety standards puts women and babies at risk.”
Also this week, Hatheway granted a 30-day pause on a law that would regulate the disposal of fetal tissue and medical waste from surgical abortions.
The preliminary injunction granted earlier this week by Hatheway ruled Senate Bill 27 could not take effect for at least 30 days. This gives the Ohio Department of Health time to create the rules, regulations and forms needed for health clinics to follow the law.
Hatheway said because the rules and regulations were not yet in place, clinics could still be unknowingly at risk of violating the law, and without the rules in place, abortion providers may be afraid of civil action or loss of licensure. This, she ruled, could deny patients’ access to their right to an abortion, protected under the state and U.S. Constitution.
Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks gestation, though the state legislature is once again trying to change that with anticipation of a challenge to the federal Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal across the country.