Lawsuit filed to protect abortion in Ohio

By: - June 30, 2022 3:55 am

Pictured is the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center where the Ohio Supreme Court meets. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons..

A new lawsuit is sending Ohio’s six-week abortion ban to state court, less than a week after an injunction on it was lifted by a federal court.

The ACLU and its Ohio chapter, along with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the WilmerHale law firm, asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the recently implemented law that bans abortions around six-weeks gestation, with no exceptions for rape and incest.

At the request of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, a federal court agreed to lift an injunction on this 2019 law signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

The law is called the “Heartbeat Bill” by supporters because it purports to ban abortions when a fetal “heartbeat” can be detected, but according to medical experts, the term “fetal heartbeat” is misleading and medically inaccurate.

“At six weeks of gestation, those valves don’t exist,” said Dr. Nisha Verma, an OB-GYN who specializes in abortion care and works at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The flickering that we’re seeing on the ultrasound that early in the development of the pregnancy is actually electrical activity, and the sound that you ‘hear’ is actually manufactured by the ultrasound machine.”

The lawsuit is now seeking for the state’s highest court to block the law.

“This sweeping measure, which prevents nearly every pregnant person from accessing essential care, is blatantly unconstitutional under Ohio’s state constitution which has broad protections for individual liberties,” Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement.

The groups said banning abortion in any way “disproportionately harms people of color, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, immigrants, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ communities.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of various abortion clinics in the state, including Pre-Term Cleveland, Planned Parenthoods for the Southwest Ohio and greater Ohio regions, the Women’s Med Group, the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center and the Toledo Women’s Center.

In the lawsuit, the clinics lay out situations that have happened since the six-week ban was put in place, which have included patient stories about dangerous ways of self-managing their abortion.

“One patient said she would attempt to terminate her pregnancy by drinking bleach,” the groups wrote in the lawsuit. “Another asked how much Vitamin C she would need to take to terminate her pregnancy.”

Not having the ability to legally terminate the abortion with the methods proven to be safe, the clinics say the risks to pregnant patients will continue.

“Absent action from this court, (the law) will continue to drastically restrict Ohioans’ access to abortion and violate Ohioans’ fundamental rights guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution,” the complaint stated.

Religious groups who praised the overturning of Roe v. Wade and near-immediate implementation of the law said pro-abortion groups are wrongly assigning a constitutional right to abortion.

“To suggest our state constitution requires that abortion clinics are able to destroy unborn life is foolish and dangerous,” said Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, in a statement after the lawsuit was announced.

The Ohio Supreme Court gave the state until noon Thursday to respond to the lawsuit.

Follow OCJ Reporter Susan Tebben on Twitter.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.