Ohio’s six-week abortion ban temporarily stalled

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Senate Bill 23 was passed in 2019 and took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The law prohibits abortions performed after detection of early heart activity – usually about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant – except in medical emergencies.

With the judge’s decision, abortion is again available up to 20 weeks after fertilization (about 22 weeks after a patient’s last menstrual period). The temporary restraining order is in place for the next 14 days and the plaintiffs have requested a preliminary injunction while the case unfolds.

“SB 23 clearly discriminates against pregnant women and places an enormous burden on them to ensure safe and effective health care, so it violates Ohio’s Equal Benefits and Protections Clause and is therefore unconstitutional,” Judge Christian A. Jenkins wrote in his order.

On September 2, Ohio abortion providers filed a new challenge against SB 23 in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, arguing that the law violates the state constitution. The groups said they withdrew their initial challenge to the law which was before the state Supreme Court, which denied their request for an emergency stay.

“We are grateful that, for now, the people of Ohio can once again have widespread access to abortion care in their own state. But this is only the first step. We have already seen the devastating impact of Senate Bill 23 on Persons Seeking Abortions in Ohio,” the plaintiffs and litigants said in a joint statement.

The state’s abortion laws have come under particular scrutiny in recent months following a high-profile case involving a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who traveled to Indiana to get an abortion.

Preterm-Cleveland, an abortion clinic and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said Wednesday it would resume offering abortions for as long as possible.

Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis said in a statement that “by doing forum shopping, abortion activists temporarily got what they wanted.”

“We are more than confident that the heartbeat law will come into effect relatively soon,” he said. “Furthermore, we can assure pro-life Ohio that in the near future, Ohio will become abortion-free, regardless of what this local judge decides today.”

Laws that ban abortion or severely restrict the procedure have gone into effect in a dozen states after the US Supreme Court struck down a constitutional right to abortion. In several of these states, abortion rights advocates and providers have taken legal action to challenge abortion restrictions and have had some success in temporarily blocking the bans.
In neighboring West Virginia this week, lawmakers passed a bill that will ban almost all abortions except to save the life of a pregnant person or in certain cases involving rape or incest, sending the measure to the governor. State Republican for his endorsement.

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