Ohio Abortion Providers File New Challenges to Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Restrictions

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
May 9, 2024 7:00 pm

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CINCINNATI — Late Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the law firm WilmerHale, and Fanon Rucker of the Cochran Law Firm amended their complaint in an existing lawsuit against a ban on telehealth medication abortion services while simultaneously challenging other laws in Ohio that restrict access to this safe abortion option. These laws violate the Ohio Constitution, as amended by voters to include an explicit right to abortion on Nov. 7, 2023. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2021, is pending in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Preterm-Cleveland, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Dr. Sharon Liner, and Julia Quinn, MSN, BSN.

The lawsuit initially challenged a ban on telehealth medication abortion, which remains blocked by the preliminary injunction entered by the court on April 20, 2021. The court already found in issuing a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ban, that telehealth medication abortion services are “safe, effective health care” and a ban will delay and potentially preclude patients from accessing constitutionally protected abortion care.

Plaintiffs have also amended their complaint to include new claims under the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment, challenging a law that prevents advanced practice clinicians — such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives — from providing medication abortion, and a law that blocks providers from prescribing mifepristone — one of the two drugs most commonly used in a medication abortion — according to the best medical evidence, instead requiring them to follow the outdated drug labeling.

Ohio law restricts medication abortion use to 70 days or 10 weeks of pregnancy in Ohio, despite extensive evidence that it can safely and effectively be used to terminate a pregnancy through at least 11 weeks.

“Medication abortion is safe, effective, and accounts for nearly two-thirds of abortions in the United States. These arbitrary, medically unnecessary anti-abortion restrictions profoundly limit Ohioans’ ability to exercise their constitutional rights. We urge the court to strike them down,” added Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.

“The use of telehealth to provide medication abortion makes delivery of care more cost-effective, offers patients flexibility and privacy, and helps address existing health inequities for those facing the most structural barriers to abortion care, including patients with low incomes and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities,” said Erica Wilson-Domer, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

“Unnecessary restrictions to medication abortion prevent Ohioans in need from accessing care. Allowing telehealth for medication abortion would help communities who typically have to drive long distances to reach one of the handful of providers in the state of Ohio,” said Bethany Lewis, LISW-S, Executive Director of Preterm.

“We can all agree that health care needs to be more accessible, not less. More than half of the patients we serve travel significant distances to us to receive care. Unnecessary restrictions that ignore the expertise of medical professionals exacerbate the strain on patients and providers. Using telehealth to provide medication abortion allows patients to access care in their local community without having the burden of traveling long distances and/or taking additional time from their jobs and families to access the health care they need and deserve,” added Dr. Sharon Liner, Medical Director, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.

The plaintiffs have filed a series of amended complaints in separate lawsuits challenging various abortion restrictions that violate the Ohio Constitution, including the new Reproductive Freedom Amendment.

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