News Abortion

Ohio’s Anti-Abortion Budget Gets Renewed Legal Challenge

Nina Liss-Schultz

The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday asked an Ohio judge to strike down several provisions in a law that has restricted access to abortion and closed clinics in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday asked an Ohio judge to strike down several provisions in a law that has restricted access to abortion and closed clinics in the state.

The Ohio legislature in June 2013 passed a budget bill with several anti-choice riders tacked on. That fall, the ACLU, on behalf of the abortion provider Preterm-Cleveland, sued the state, arguing that the budget bill unlawfully includes the abortion restrictions.

At issue in the lawsuit is not whether the restrictions themselves are legal, but if their inclusion in the budget bill violates state law. The case rests on an Ohio law called the One-Subject Rule, which requires all legislation to address only one subject.

The suit argues that because the abortion amendments are unrelated to budget appropriations, they violate the One-Subject Rule and should be stricken from the law.

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In the document filed this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is arguing that a lengthy court process is unnecessary because the facts of the case are straightforward. Instead, according to the ACLU, the Common Pleas judge should issue a summary ruling, removing the abortion restrictions from the budget bill and voiding them entirely.

The budget bill currently includes three anti-choice provisions, one of which is a ban on public hospitals from making transfer agreements with surgical abortion facilities.

As Rewire has reported before, the transfer agreement requirement and the addition of public hospital qualification have already threatened abortion access in the state. The Ohio Department of Health this year revoked the Lebanon Road Surgery Center’s operating license after finding it did not have a transfer agreement with a local public hospital.

Lebanon Road stopped providing surgical abortions last month.

And in July, Capital Care Network, a Toledo abortion provider, had its license revoked after it was unable to find a local public hospital that would sign a written transfer agreement. The clinic had a previous agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, which is less than an hour away by car, but was forced to make an agreement with a more local hospital.

The second amendment to the budget bill requires that abortion providers determine at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure whether there is a fetal heartbeat, and if there is, the provider is required to talk to the patient about the heartbeat.

The provision also creates criminal penalties for providers who fail to comply.

As the lawsuit filed this week points out, the heartbeat budget provision is very similar to an earlier fetal heartbeat bill that failed to pass the legislature. The heartbeat provision was added only two days before the bill passed, giving no opportunity for public testimony or debate.

The third amendment creates a state-level “parenting and pregnancy” program that moves money into organizations that are banned from discussing abortion care.

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