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Ohio Releases Communications With Antiabortion-Rights Group; Lawsuit Dismissed

Ohio Releases Communications With Antiabortion-Rights Group; Lawsuit Dismissed

April 29, 2015 — The Ohio Department of Health has provided the NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation with public records it previously refused to share related to its communications with an antiabortion-rights group, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

After receiving the records, the foundation last week moved to dismiss a lawsuit it had filed to obtain the records. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the case on Monday (Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, 4/27).

Background on Records Request

The NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation originally requested the records on Oct. 27, 2014. The request asked ODH for one year's worth of records of calls between itself and two telephone numbers that belong to Ohio Right to Life, as well as two years of emails between ODH and Ohio Right to Life.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland had said, "What we're really trying to find out is how frequently staff [who are] involved with decisions involving reproductive health care -- most notably abortion clinics, but reproductive health care in general -- how often they're communicating with Ohio Right to Life." She said that her group is attempting to see whether Ohio Right to Life has had any special influence or access.

The state recently has passed several abortion restrictions and the number of abortion clinics in the state decreased from 13 in 2013 to eight as of January 2015.

ODH denied the records request on Nov. 19, 2014, stating that the request was "overly broad." NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio filed the lawsuit on Dec. 24, 2014.

The state Supreme Court in January referred the case to mediation (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/8). According to the Dispatch, ODH and the NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation resolved their dispute during mediation (Columbus Dispatch, 4/27).

Reaction

Copeland said the foundation still was going through the records and likely "will be pursing more information" (AP/Oklahoman, 4/27). According to the Dispatch's review of 600 pages of records, the communications include requests for public records and information about abortion clinic regulation and licensure.

Meanwhile, Ohio Right to Life president Michael Gonidakis said that while his organization communicates with ODH "to ensure abortion [clinics] are being regulated," his organization does not receive any special treatment (Columbus Dispatch, 4/27). He added that the records demonstrated that his organization was doing its job in communicating with state officials (AP/Oklahoman, 4/27).