Ohio Providers File New Lawsuit in Hamilton County to Restore Abortion Access and Protect Ohioans’ Fundamental Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
September 2, 2022 11:00 am

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CINCINNATI Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm WilmerHale filed a lawsuit in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas bringing a state constitutional challenge against SB 23, a law banning abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy. The reproductive rights organizations ask the court to immediately restore Ohioans’ reproductive rights secured by the Ohio Constitution. This lawsuit comes more than two months after the draconian bill took effect on June 24, 2022 for the first time since it was passed in 2019, causing an immediate, devastating crisis across the state. Due to the ongoing irreparable harm to Ohioans, the reproductive rights organizations have withdrawn the lawsuit they initially filed in the state Supreme Court in late June and are asking the lower court to grant immediate relief blocking the ban.

The reproductive rights organizations and WilmerHale filed the lawsuit on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Northeast Ohio Women’s Center, Toledo Women’s Center, and Dr. Sharon Liner, an individual abortion provider, to protect the right to abortion in our state under the Ohio Constitution.

Below are statements from plaintiffs and litigators:

“Each day that Ohioans have lacked access to reproductive care has been devastating. In the two months since we filed in the Ohio Supreme Court, our remaining Ohio clinics have struggled to keep open their doors, and access to care in neighboring states has been shutting down. At this point, Ohio patients are left in impossible circumstances. We simply cannot wait any longer for the Ohio Supreme Court to act, so we have decided to file in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. The people of this state have suffered long enough,” offered Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio.

“Preterm has been providing safe, compassionate, and legal abortion care since 1974, and we will continue to serve patients for as long as we can. We have seen firsthand the chaos and devastation caused by this extraordinarily harsh and unconstitutional law, and we will continue to fight it by any legal means necessary,” commented Sri Thakkilapati, Interim Executive Director of Preterm-Cleveland.

“In Ohio and across the country, millions of women and people who can become pregnant have lost their ability to access essential abortion care and determine the course of their own lives. The chaos and confusion from pushing reproductive health care out of reach has been devastating. Some people have been able to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to travel out of state for care, but countless more have been forced to carry pregnancies against their will and suffer from all of the life-altering health impacts that come with forced childbirth. This is about controlling the decisions of women and those who can become pregnant, but we won’t let politicians attack our access to lifesaving health care without a fight. We hope today’s lawsuit will clear a path to getting much-needed relief for the countless Ohioans who deserve the ability to determine the best medical care for them with their doctors, free from interference from politicians,” said Meagan Burrows, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

“Since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion, patients and providers across the country have been thrown into a world of chaos, fear, and confusion. Ohio is no exception. We are seeing patients denied care and forced to travel to an increasingly shrinking number of clinics in neighboring states. This six-week abortion ban was designed to be cruel and intended to target already disproportionately marginalized communities. We will not stand for it. Hopefully, today’s filing is just the first step toward putting power back into the hands of patients and keeping lawmakers out of private medical decisions,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Each day that Ohio’s heinous six-week abortion ban remains in effect is another day that a patient is forced to travel out of state to access the abortion care they need. Ohioans deserve the information and resources to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Instead, pregnant people are overpoliced and controlled by state lawmakers, leaving their reproductive health care access at the mercy of oppressive institutions and government officials. This state-sanctioned violence disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and Latino people, LGBTQ+ people, and those living with low incomes or in rural communities. Know this: Ohio Republicans have been chipping away at our reproductive freedom for the last decade. Each time, we have pushed back — and this time is no different. We will never stop fighting to secure the right to bodily autonomy for every Ohioan,” said Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio

“Planned Parenthood is dedicated to ensuring that every patient who seeks an abortion can get one. With the six week ban in place, most folks won’t even know they are pregnant before they lose access to care. No judge, politician or ban should ever be able to block a person’s personal medical decisions or set the course for someone’s health and life. We are doing everything we can to assist patients who cannot access abortion care in Ohio –including navigating to other providers where possible, but the reality is that isn’t a solution for everyone. Every minute the court delays ruling on this, more patients are harmed. Patients have suffered long enough, that’s why this filing must happen now.

Planned Parenthood in Ohio will continue to provide services within the scope of the law, but our fight for bodily autonomy continues. We’ll keep fighting for total and equitable reproductive health care access. Ohioans deserve that much,” shared Kersha Deibel, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, in a joint statement.

Banning abortion for women and anyone that needs abortion care disproportionately harms people of color, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, immigrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ communities. If abortion remains banned in Ohio, Black women and other people of color will continue to bear the brunt of the harm it inflicts. These communities already face a severe maternal mortality crisis that is worse in states that ban abortion.

The reproductive rights organizations involved are committed to pursuing every possible option to restore reproductive freedom. The fight for abortion access is far from over. The plaintiffs are asking the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas to order state officials not to enforce SB 23 and to declare the ban unconstitutional.

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