Ohio Supreme Court to consider how Issue 1 passage affects heartbeat law

Court requesting briefs from both sides in abortion lawsuit.

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

With the passage of Issue 1 last week, the Ohio Supreme Court is turning its attention back to Preterm-Cleveland v. Yost, the lawsuit stemming from a lower court’s preliminary injunction on Ohio’s heartbeat law.

On Thursday, the court ordered parties to file briefs within 21 days on the impact to this case from Ohioans voting to make access to abortion and other reproductive decisions a right in the Ohio Constitution. Approximately 56.6% of Ohio voters approved of the amendment.

“Issue 1 was clearly written to protect every Ohioans’ access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion,” said Gabriel Mann, communication director of Pro-Choice Ohio. “The amendment language creates new common-sense guidelines that will be used for decades to review reproductive health care policies, with the six-week ban being the most urgent review of an unjust law.”

Parties last came together for oral arguments in September, each side arguing on whether or not Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost could appeal a preliminary injunction prior to the end of that court case, as well as if clinics had the legal standing to file lawsuits on behalf of their patients.

The court declined to take up the issue of the Heartbeat Law itself. The new provision approved under Issue 1 will come into effect 30 days after the election, ACLU of Ohio says, and they plan to challenge the Heartbeat Law itself when the new amendment is in effect.

“The moment that the amendment comes into effect, the ban will clearly be in violation. If necessary, we will file a claim in court asking to strike the ban,” said Freda Levenson, legal director of the ACLU of Ohio.

Anti-abortion activists are anticipating these court challenges, and Dayton Right to Life believes there will be challenges against other laws involving abortion, including parental consent and hospital transfers.

“That’s exactly what we said would happen, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen, so we’re not surprised, and we anticipated this from the beginning,” said Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life.

Dayton Right to Life plans to stay, Christie said. They support about 60 families a week.

“We’ll just continue serving our families like we’ve always done,” Christie said.

For approximately 11 weeks following the end of Roe v. Wade, Ohio was under a six-week abortion ban until Sept. 14, 2022, when a Hamilton County judge temporarily blocked the ban. What started as a 14-day restraining order and then a preliminary injunction has since been appealed before the Ohio Supreme Court, which now has arguments from the state and attorneys representing abortion providers.

The Hamilton County court’s ruling came as Women’s Med Center in Kettering, the Dayton area’s only surgical abortion clinic, was on the verge of closing.

The state has previously made the argument it had the right to the appeal the trial court’s preliminary injunction, even though the case had not yet been finished, saying “the injunction bars the State from enforcing a law passed to regulate an irreversible medical procedure.” The state argues this gives it grounds for an “interlocutory appeal,” which is when a ruling by a trial court is appealed while other aspects of the case are still proceeding.

The state has also argued that abortion providers do not have standing to bring these lawsuits before the courts, saying patients can file lawsuits under pseudonyms to protect privacy concerns.

In turn, the ACLU of Ohio made the point that clinics have been bringing cases forward on behalf of their patients for decades. Preliminary injunctions are also “not appealable except in specific, narrow circumstances,” which the ACLU of Ohio said were not present in this case.

Reporter Avery Kreemer contributed to this story.

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