Ohio judge temporarily blocks the state’s new abortion ban
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins has granted a 14-day restraining order on Ohio’s new abortion ban, which bans the procedure once fetal cardiac electrical activity is detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
It could mean one facility that said it would have to shut down on September 15 if there had been no legal action on Ohio's ban may stay open.
The judge allowed the injunction in favor of the plaintiffs, a group of abortion service providers from around the state who argue that the right to an abortion is protected in the state constitution.
The lawsuit was filed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Ohio was able to put its six-week abortion ban in place.
Jenkins ruled that the court does have subject matter jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs were “substantially likely to prevail on the merits” in their case against the law — which was passed by the legislature in 2019 as Senate Bill 23, but was on hold until June's supreme court ruling.
“With the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe, this is precisely the situation in which the Court finds itself today — SB23 does not violate the U.S. Constitution as recently interpreted in the Dobbs decision, but it may violate the Ohio Constitution. So far as this Court can tell, no Ohio court has directly addressed this issue, so this Court will,” Jenkins wrote.
The ACLU of Ohio was among the groups that filed the lawsuit on behalf of abortion service providers and issued a statement from the plaintiffs following the judge’s ruling.
“We’re grateful that, for now, Ohioans can once again widely access abortion care in their own state. But this is just the first step. We have already seen the devastating impact Senate Bill 23 has had on people seeking abortions in Ohio. State lawmakers will stop at nothing to try again to permanently restrict our reproductive rights; their cruelty knows no bounds. We remain intensely committed to defending against any and all attempts to limit Ohioans’ constitutional right to access the full range of reproductive health care in their home state,” the statement said.
In his ruling, Jenkins wrote “No great stretch is required to find that Ohio law recognizes a fundamental right to privacy, procreation, bodily integrity and freedom of choice in health care decision making.”
After the hearing last week, one of the lawyers for the providers, Case Western Reserve University law professor Jessie Hill, pointed out an amendment added to Ohio’s constitution by voters in 2011 as an anti-Obamacare measure - which she said related to a right to privacy.
“Our equivalent of the federal constitutional language that recognizes the right to privacy is a little bit broader than the federal language," Hill said in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland.
The providers went to Hamilton County after withdrawing their case against the ban in the Ohio Supreme Court.
But Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, defended the constitutionality of Ohio’s new abortion ban.
"By forum shopping, abortion activists temporarily got what they wanted which is the ability to abort children with a beating heart,” Gonidakis said in a statement. “Nowhere in the Ohio Constitution or anywhere in the Ohio Revised Code will any Ohioan find supporting evidence that Ohio's current heartbeat law is anything other than good law which saves lives. We are more than confident that the heartbeat law will go back into effect relatively soon. Further, we can assure pro-life Ohio that in the near future Ohio will become abortion free, regardless of what this local judge ruled today. We will prevail."
The challenge over Ohio’s abortion ban will continue to play out in court. In the meantime, abortions in Ohio will be legal up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Dayton's only abortion clinic had said it would have to close on September 15, when Indiana's abortion ban went into effect, if there was no legal action on that ban or Ohio's. Women's Medical Center operates clinics in Dayton and Indianapolis.