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ACLU Challenges Ohio’s Anti-Abortion Budget Amendments

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The lawsuit alleges three provisions attached as part of the state's 2014 budget violate the "single-subject" rule of the Ohio Constitution.

Just one week after hundreds of protesters rallied at the Ohio statehouse against a host of new anti-abortion measures jammed into the state’s budget, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Ohio announced a lawsuit challenging three of those provisions.

The budget and anti-abortion amendments were passed in June and took effect September 30. The anti-abortion amendments to the budget include effectively cutting Planned Parenthood off from federal funding; requiring that patients have an external ultrasound before an abortion and requiring the doctor to inform the patient of a heartbeat; directly funding crisis pregnancy centers; funding $1 million in rape-crisis programs but gagging counsels from discussing abortion; and banning abortion clinics from signing transfer agreements with local hospitals.

The suit, filed on behalf of Preterm, a Cleveland women’s health clinic that provides contraception, birth control, pregnancy counseling, and abortion services, challenges the prohibition on transfer agreements with public hospitals, the ultrasound requirement, and direct funding of crisis pregnancy centers. The suit alleges all three amendments violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule and, as a result, are unconstitutional. “To put it simply, none of these amendments have any place in the state budget bill,” Susan Scheutzow, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the law firm of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, said in a statement. “This massive bill is not intended to deal with new policy. The single subject of the budget should be the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations.”

The purpose of “single-subject” rules is to keep budgets focused only on appropriations as a means of keeping track of state spending and encouraging transparency in governance. “This litigation is as much about good government as it is about reproductive justice,” said Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a statement. “You don’t have to be pro-choice to understand that there are rules, and those rules must be followed.”

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Ohio is not the only state with a single-subject rule. In August, the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged an Oklahoma law that attempts to reinstate restrictions on access to emergency contraception for violating that state’s single-subject rule.

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