Judge Blocks State Abortion Ban As Attempt “To Completely Eliminate The Rights of Ohio Women”

For now, abortion in Ohio is permitted up to 20 weeks.

Abortion rights advocates gather and march outside the Hamilton County Courthouse after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on July 2, 2022, in Cincinnati, Ohio.Jason Whitman/NurPhoto via ZUMA

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Ohio’s near-total abortion ban will remain on hold as a challenge to the law proceeds in state court, a judge ruled Friday, allowing abortions up to 20 weeks gestation to proceed.

The case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood last month, has already showcased the harmful effects of Ohio’s abortion ban on people seeking to terminate their pregnancies.

In issuing his decision, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins said the abortion ban is written “to almost completely eliminate the rights of Ohio women.” Jenkins also rebuffed the state’s argument that the Ohio constitution doesn’t protect abortion because it doesn’t explicitly mention it. “This court has no difficulty holding that the Ohio Constitution confers a fundamental right on all of Ohioans to privacy, procreation, bodily integrity and freedom of choice in health care decision-making that encompasses the right to abortion,” he said.

The lawsuit is challenging the abortion ban under Ohio’s constitution. Judge Jenkins initially blocked the law last month and on Friday said that hold would remain in effect for the duration of the case. Ohio is expected to appeal the decision, making the near-term future of abortion access in Ohio uncertain.

Ohio’s law bans abortions after cardiac activity is detected around six weeks gestation. The ban become national news shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this past summer when a 10-year-old victim of sexual assault had to leave the state in order to obtain an abortion.

According to affidavits submitted in the lawsuit, two additional minors who suffered sexual assault also had to leave the state for abortions. Cancer patients and other women with severe complications were also denied abortions. The Ohio Capital Journal summarized the evidence last month:

The descriptions include those of three women who threatened suicide. They also include two women with cancer who couldn’t terminate their pregnancies and also couldn’t get cancer treatment while they were pregnant. 

Another three examples were of women whose fetuses had severe abnormalities or other conditions that made a successful pregnancy impossible. Even so, they couldn’t get abortions in Ohio. 

And in three cases, debilitating vomiting was caused by pregnancy—so bad in one case that a woman couldn’t get off the clinic floor. But neither could these women get abortions in Ohio, the affidavits said.

Ohio’s law provides exceptions for the life of the mother, if the pregnancy is ectopic, and to prevent “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Under the law, clearly many more women are left in the lurch.

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