The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit to challenge an Ohio law criminalizing abortions when one of the woman’s reasons for the abortion is a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Plaintiffs argue the law imposes an unconstitutional burden on patients seeking abortion and intrudes into the personal health decisions of women and families.
The federal lawsuit, brought by reproductive health care providers in Ohio on behalf of their patients, seeks immediate relief to stop the enforcement of the law, also known as House Bill 214. Plaintiffs argue the law imposes an unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortion and intrudes into patients’ personal decision-making, violating federal constitutional guarantees of privacy and autonomy.
The Ohio law would undermine the relationship between doctors and patients, making it harder for a woman to have an honest and informed conversation with her health care provider. The patient-doctor relationship is critical; a woman should be able to trust her physicians and have confidential conversations without worrying about government interference. The Ohio law would prevent plaintiffs from providing nonjudgmental, medically appropriate care.
In their lawsuit, plaintiffs note that banning a woman from having an abortion because of a fetal diagnosis is not only unconstitutional; the law does nothing to address discrimination against people with disabilities or improve access to health care, education, or other services.
The Ohio abortion ban is part of a national strategy to push abortion out of reach: since January 2011, state politicians have enacted more than 401 new restrictions on abortion that force patients to delay care, shut down clinics, and make abortion care unaffordable and unobtainable.
Plaintiffs are Preterm Cleveland, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, and the Women’s Medical Group Professional Corporation. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief to hold Ohio’s law unconstitutional and unenforceable.
UPDATE (March 2018): In a victory for Ohio women and families, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio blocked House Bill 214, was scheduled to take effect on March 23, 2018. The court’s ruling blocks the law’s implementation as litigation proceeds.
UPDATE (October 2019): The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the District Court's ruling, and the law remains blocked.