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Ohio law banning nearly all abortions will remain blocked as state’s constitutional challenge moves forward, judge rules

A judge said Friday that an Ohio law bans nearly all abortions, while the state’s constitutional challenge moves forward. The ruling would allow termination of pregnancy through 20 weeks of gestation to continue for now.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins issued a preliminary injunction from the bench after a day of hearing where courthouse guards examined onlookers and an abortion provider testified to her wearing a Kevlar vest because of fears for her safety.

In passionate comments announcing his decision, Jenkins dismissed the state’s arguments that the Ohio Constitution never mentions abortion, and therefore does not protect one’s right. He said there is no need to name a right to preserve it.

“This Court has no difficulty in holding that the Ohio Constitution provides all Ohioans with a fundamental right to privacy, reproduction, bodily integrity and freedom of choice in health care decision-making that includes the right to abortion,” he said.

He said the state has failed to prove that the ban on most abortions once fetal heart activity is detected is designed enough not to infringe on those rights. Rather, Jenkins said, the law is “written to eliminate the rights of Ohio women almost entirely. It is not narrowly tailored, not even close.”

The state is expected to appeal.

The law, signed by Republican Governor Mike Devine in April 2019, prohibits most abortions after the first detectable “fetal beating.” Heart activity can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy before many women know they are pregnant. The law was blocked through legal challenge, briefly coming into force when The landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision was overturnedAnd then the court was stopped again.

Jenkins’s decision followed a day of testimony that did little from existing social and political arguments for and against abortion, and she later, she said, surprised her in her failure to stir any new ground.

Ohio Right to Life president Michael Gonidakis said his organization was “saddened but not surprised” by the decision.

“Abortion clinics literally shopped to get the results they wanted. It’s time for a pro-life movement and we are confident that the Ohio Supreme Court will reverse this decision,” Gonidakis said in a statement. “Nowhere in Ohio’s Constitution does the right to abortion exist.”

Lawyers for abortion clinics presented witnesses who insisted that abortions are safe, essential health care and that pregnant Ohio seeking the procedure was devastated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June in historic Roe v. Wade had reversed the case.

Steven Ralston, a maternal and fetal medicine physician at the University of Maryland, said the limited exceptions included in Ohio’s so-called “heart palpitations” law are unclear and worrying for physicians, who may face felony charges for misinterpretation of their medical licenses. We do.

They testified to seeing a greater danger to patients in pregnancy than in abortion.

“I have seen many more patients end up in intensive care units after having a baby than women who have abortions,” Ralston said in video testimony. “In fact, I can’t remember a single time that I’ve seen a woman end up in a care unit after a miscarriage.”

State lawyers testified to Dr. Dennis Sullivan, a bioethical expert at Cedarville University, a private Baptist institution, who testified that human life begins at conception and is “not open to scientific debate.”

He said Ohio’s law is “consistent with good medical practice” and that he considers abortion under its limited exceptions—which involve the risk of the mother’s life or extensive internal organ damage—is medically ethical. The law has no exceptions for fetal anomalies, which Jenkins raised as a question.

Jenkins asked many of Sullivan’s pointed questions after the cross-examination, notably on a point of view he expressed in testimony that his positions on the nature of human life and the immoral nature of pregnancy termination should not include medical emergencies. other.

“My question is whether you specifically, or someone else in particular, allows that decision to be made better than the person whose rights we are being asked to limit, whose autonomy we are being asked to take away from us.” being asked for?” Jenkins asked.

Sullivan responded with an example of a medical condition where an aggrieved woman’s autonomy can be sacrificed when she arrives at a hospital in need of life-saving care. He also pointed to Ohio laws beyond abortion that limit citizens’ autonomy, such as the state’s ban on assisted suicide.

Plaintiff’s witness Dr. Steven Joffe, a faculty member in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, testified that Sullivan’s position gave the moral status of an “almost full-weight” fetus on a pregnant patient.

Jenkins said he was most impressed by the testimony of Columbus OB/GYN, Dr. Michael Parker, whose testimony revealed a patchwork of fictional, sometimes conflicting judgment calls that he felt would make sense under the law. . The judge said it proved for him “that it is extremely difficult to be a businessman in the state of Ohio under this law.”

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