Judge Blocks Ohio’s Fetal Heartbeat Law

Last Wednesday, U.S District Judge Michael Barrett temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, allowing clinics to continue to provide abortions. The law was slated to take effect this month, but Judge Barrett issued a preliminary injunction, blocking the law from taking effect while it is being challenged in court.

Using the 1992 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Barrett argued that the Ohio law would place an “undue burden” on a women’s right to access abortion. Barrett further  wrote that should the Ohio law go into effect “one could characterize the obstacle Ohio women will face as not merely ‘substantial’ but, rather, ‘insurmountable.”

Freda Levenson, the legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, stated that “the court has upheld the clear law: women in Ohio…have the constitutional right to make this deeply personal decision about their own bodies without interference from the state.”

Earlier this April, Gov. Mike DeWine signed the Ohio law that officially banned abortions after 5-6 weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. The law has an exception to save a woman’s life; however, there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The law also penalizes doctors who perform abortion after a heartbeat is detected with a fifth-degree felony, up to a year in jail, and possible fines.

This decision is a sign of hope for abortion rights advocates who have challenged recent laws restricting access to abortion in several states. Elizabeth Watson, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, argued that “this victory for Ohio women [will] stand as a reminder that these attacks on abortion access are illegal.”

Just two weeks ago, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued Arkansas and Georgia, while the American Medical Association sued North Dakota last Tuesday. Watson further stated that, “we will continue to work within the courts to hold anti-abortion state legislators accountable as long as they abuse their power to push abortion out of reach.”


Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 4/12/19, CNN 7/3/19, CBS News 7/3/19, The Hill 7/3/19

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