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ACLU of Ohio Urges Court Response in Lawsuit Challenging State Abortion Restrictions

ACLU of Ohio Urges Court Response in Lawsuit Challenging State Abortion Restrictions

September 10, 2014 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio in a court filing Monday requested a hearing and summary judgment in a lawsuit concerning abortion-related measures in the state's two-year budget, the AP/Toledo Blade reports.

According to the AP/Blade, no hearings have been held on the suit since it was filed nearly a year ago (AP/Toledo Blade, 9/9).

Ohio Budget Requirements

The budget, which took effect Sept. 30, 2013, includes a provision that requires abortion clinics to secure a transfer agreement with a private hospital and prohibits them from making such arrangements with public hospitals.

The budget also requires physicians to perform an abdominal ultrasound prior to an abortion and tell the woman if a heartbeat is detectable. Physicians also must explain the likelihood that the fetus would survive if the pregnancy continues. The bill defines a fetus as "developing from the moment of conception."

In addition, the budget reprioritizes which providers may receive federal family planning money in a way that effectively cuts off $1.4 million from Planned Parenthood. However, the budget does provide funding for antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers, which critics argue give women medically inaccurate information. The legislation allows public funding for rape crisis clinics to be suspended if they counsel victims on abortion.

Lawsuit Details

The suit argues that the budget violates a provision of the Ohio Constitution that requires legislation to be limited to a single subject. The abortion restrictions "have nothing whatsoever to do with budgeting, appropriations, spending or taxation," the suit states, adding that "they are controversial riders, added in the eleventh hour to a must-pass bill in order to ensure that they would pass easily and without opposition" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/10/13).

Latest Filing

In Monday's court filing, attorneys for ACLU of Ohio said the court should strike down the provisions and declare them void and unenforceable. ACLU cooperating attorney Jessie Hill wrote, "These provisions do not relate to the state budget or appropriations and have nothing to do with the purpose of the Budget Bill."

ACLU of Ohio Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner added that an answer on the suit is needed "for all the clinics around the state."

Meanwhile, attorneys for the state have urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the plaintiffs do not have standing (AP/Toledo Blade, 9/9).