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Judge temporarily blocks Ohio law banning most abortions after six weeks

SCOTUS overturns Roe v Wade; what happens to Ohio?
Posted at 5:19 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 23:16:52-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A state judge temporarily blocked Ohio's ban on virtually all abortions Wednesday, again pausing a law that took effect after federal abortion protections were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

The decision means abortions through 20 weeks' gestation, approximately 22 weeks after the last menstrual period, can continue for now, in keeping with state law in place before the ban.

Democratic Hamilton County Judge Christian Jenkins' decision to grant a 14-day restraining order against the law came as part of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Ohio on behalf of abortion providers in the state. The clinics argue the law violates protections in the state Constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equal protection. The suit also says the law is unconstitutionally vague.

"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," Jenkins wrote.

What happens next?

This ruling is procedural. The ACLU will ask him to issue a preliminary injunction next, which is an order that will block the law until the trial is entirely over. Abortion advocates will ask the judge to rule on the injunction before the temporary restraining order expires. Within 14 days, or if that's not enough time, he is allowed under the law to extend that another 14 days.

It would be extremely unusual for a judge who wrote such a strong opinion to change his mind, legal experts told News 5.

Pro-life advocates can try to appeal this, but it's not likely to happen, lawyers said, especially because it's not very easy to appeal orders like this. The law doesn't allow it in most circumstances. There's nothing that should change in front of this judge, they added.

Context

Republican Gov. DeWine signed the bill into law later in 2019, making abortion illegal after the fetus's “heartbeat” can be detected, which conservatives say is usually between five or six weeks into the pregnancy. However, most doctors do not agree with this. The six-week mark is before the majority of people know they are pregnant.

A federal judge blocked this bill temporarily. The overturning of Roe v. Wade caused the bill to be released from the judge's hold.

The six-week bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), does not have an exception for rape or incest. It also only applies only to intrauterine pregnancies. It only has two exceptions.

The ban allows for physicians to perform an abortion if the procedure is to prevent someone’s death or bodily impairment, which is defined as any “medically diagnosed condition that so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and reversible impairment of a major bodily function.” This includes pre-eclampsia, “inevitable” abortion and premature rupture of the membranes. It could also be diabetes or multiple sclerosis but it can’t be anything related to mental health.

To be able to perform the life-saving measure, a physician has to write that the procedure is necessary for the above reasons and must include the medical condition and the medical rationale for it. Also, the written documentation must be included in the pregnant person’s medical records and the doctor must have a copy of it for at least seven years.

The other exception is if there is no heartbeat.

The bill also requires a pregnant person to sign a form acknowledging that there is a heartbeat detected. The form would include statements that say “the unborn human individual has a fetal heartbeat,” and would include the statistical probability of bringing that “individual” to term.

Read more about the bill here.

DeWine's opponent in the November election, Democrat and abortion rights proponent Nan Whaley, called Wednesday's ruling "a victory, albeit a temporary one, for Ohio women." She said, "Ohio women won't be safe until we have a pro-choice governor who doesn't seek to impose extreme views like government mandates against private health care decisions."

Abortion providers and their defenders have said the law has already created a host of hardships, including forcing a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim to travel to Indiana for an abortion.

The judge's decision is a blow for abortion opponents, who have been celebrating the implementation of the long-delayed restrictions since Roe was overturned.

Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati had anticipated the judge was leaning toward a pause after a hearing held last week, when he asked questions about the 10-year-old's case and suggested, "We should just be very honest about what we're talking about here."

"Let's just be very honest," the anti-abortion group wrote in a statement, "it is always, always best when LIFE is chosen. Always."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.