Judge holds off on Ohio abortion ban decision

By: - September 9, 2022 3:55 am

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A Hamilton County judge said he needs more time to decide whether or not to put a pause on a six-week abortion ban in Ohio.

Judge Christian Jenkins said in a Thursday hearing that he would not issue an opinion because the court still has questions about how the case moves forward.

“The court would like to investigate the threshold issue of jurisdiction and the effect of the (state) supreme court still not having dismissed the case,” Jenkins said on Thursday.

Abortion clinics moved the case from the Ohio Supreme Court to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court because, as they said in court documents, waiting for the state’s highest court to make a decision was allowing “irreparable harm to the clinics and the patients” throughout the state.

Representatives for the state argued that the jurisdiction remains with the Ohio Supreme Court, since no dismissal order has been issued.

Temporary restraining orders on laws typically work to stop a law from taking effect, leaving previous standards in place. In this case, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood want to bring back the previous law that banned abortion beyond 22 weeks gestation.

Attorneys for the state countered the request for a temporary restraining order, saying the six-week abortion ban has been effective law for two months, making it the “status quo” in the state.

Law challengers are hoping for a quicker resolution in the lower court, starting with Thursday’s hearing on abortion supporters’ request for a temporary restraining order to be put on Senate Bill 23, the 2019 law that banned abortion in Ohio after six weeks gestation.

“Every day that SB 23 remains in effect, more and more pregnant women are forced either to attempt to travel hundreds of miles out of state to access care, or to continue pregnancies against their will, or to attempt to self-induce abortion outside the medical system, all at risk to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing,” said Jessie Hill, lead counsel for the ACLU of Ohio, told the judge.

The clinics are not only challenging the law as a violation of the right to abortion, but also as an equal protection violation, based on the fact that the law only applies to those who can become pregnant.

The law had been tied up in courts since it was passed by the General Assembly in 2019, and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson this year, overturning the 1970s decision in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion nationwide, opened the door for the state to implement the law. At the request of state Attorney General Dave Yost, a federal court dissolved the injunction keeping the state law from being enforced just hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Doctors, medical students, abortion rights advocates, religious leaders and even some of Ohio’s major cities have spoken out about the dangers they say could come from the near-total abortion ban, including unintended consequences that may impact Ohioans in the middle of wanted pregnancies.

Jenkins said a decision on the temporary restraining order would be released “as quickly as the court is able.”

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 Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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