As the state legislature moves to institute more laws regulating abortion clinics two lawsuits are proceeding in federal court against the state’s health director and others.
Attorneys for the Planned Parenthood ambulatory surgical center in Cincinnati and Women’s Med Center in Kettering filed memoranda explaining why the cases should not be dismissed, virtually on the eve of the House Health and Aging Committee approving two new abortion bills.
The bills both deal with disposing of fetal remains and require either burial or cremation. Right now laws read only that the remains be handled in a “humane manner.” The abortion clinics sued the state after Attorney General Mike DeWine launched an investigation into whether certain abortion clinics were selling fetal tissue; he didn’t find evidence of that but accused the Cincinnati clinic and others of violating the fetal tissue disposal rules. Branch filed the lawsuit against Hodges asking the court to prevent the state from imposing laws on humane tissue disposal that are unconstitutionally vague. The two new bills appear to address that problem.
DeWine’s office filed a motion to dismiss saying they have already promised not to enforce the current humane disposal rules so the case is moot.
“ODH and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have stated, stipulated, and notified the court in writing that they will not enforce that administrative rule as it is currently written. They will not enforce it against plaintiffs, or anyone else, now or at any time in the future,” DeWine’s office argued.
In her reply Planned Parenthood attorney Jennifer Branch argued the state’s word isn’t good enough and there is nothing, except a federal court ruling, preventing them from doing an about face. She said the state did it before when it found planned parenthood to be in compliance with state laws but then threatened an “enforcement action.”
“There is currently no enforceable settlement agreement or court order preventing defendant from changing course and attempting to enforce the regulation, since the regulation remains on the books…,” Branch wrote. “Since defendant has previously reneged on a finding of compliance the plaintiffs are entitled to more than another promise to prevent defendant from returning ‘to its old ways.’ There is no reason in this case to blindly trust defendant’s assertion that he does not intend to enforce the regulation.”
The other case involves emergency transfer orders. The Cincinnati clinic was granted a variance after they found four doctors to agree to provide medical treatment in the case of an emergency. The variance, granted in November, is good until May 31. The University of Cincinnati Medical Center and UC Health are trying to get dismissed from the lawsuit because they say they are mandated by law to deny the abortion clinics transfer agreements.
Planned Parenthood and Women’s Med want the court to find the transfer order ban unconstitutional. They argue UC Health and the hospital are very intertwined in the transfer order issue because the clinics are in danger of losing their licenses to operate because the medical center denied them a transfer order.
Branch said Hodges denied the Kettering clinic’s variance and there is a revocation hearing on April 26. These are the last two abortion clinics still operating in southwest Ohio.
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