Federal lawsuit filed to challenge Ohio’s heartbeat abortion ban law signed by DeWine

The ACLU of Ohio and Planned Parenthood on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s heartbeat abortion ban law.

The lawsuit seeks an order to prevent it from taking effect July 10 while the case is ongoing.

The law, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on April 11, would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks gestation before many women know they are pregnant.

Related:Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signs 'heartbeat' abortion bill into law

“This assault on reproductive rights has been anticipated, and we’ve been preparing and perfecting our case. ‘Total ban’ is not inflammatory rhetoric — this is a ban on almost all abortions, and if the court does not block it, it will imperil the freedoms and health of Ohio women,” said Freda Levenson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a written statement. “The law of the land has been crystal clear for nearly 50 years: women have a categorical right to a pre-viability abortion.”

Ohio is among four states that enacted heartbeat abortion bans this year and about 10 other states are considering such bills. The new laws are setting the groundwork for a legal challenge to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Abortion opponents want the high court to overturn the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that said women have a fundamental right to privacy when deciding whether to have an abortion.

“We believe that the heartbeat bill is the right vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe versus Wade. Our strategy has always included a federal court challenge and today starts that judicial process,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “It’s no surprise that the ACLU is litigating life-saving laws and Ohio Right to Life is excited to defend the heartbeat bill all the way to our nation’s highest court.”

Delivering a direct shot at Ohio’s new anti-abortion law, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown assailed male lawmakers “who don’t even understand how women’s bodies . . . work,” passing bills which directly challenge a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

In a Senate floor speech Tuesday, Brown, D-Ohio, said “we’ve seen state legislatures around the country taking drastic, unconstitutional steps to insert themselves into personal, private health care decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor.”

ACLU of Ohio volunteer attorney Jessie Hill noted that Roe represents long-term precedent and “I believe if the supreme court did overturn Roe v Wade this would be the first time it has ever taken away a constitutional right that it has recognized in the past.”

In 2017, there were 20,893 induced abortions in Ohio, including 11,784 — 56 percent — before nine weeks gestation, according to the state Department of Health report.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Other legal fights over Ohio’s anti-abortion laws are ongoing.

— ACLU is challenging a ban on abortion when one of a woman’s reasons for terminating the pregnancy is a fetal diagnosis of Down Syndrome;

— Planned Parenthood and Women’s Med Center of Dayton are challenging a law prohibiting doctors from providing dilation and evacuation procedures.

— The Women’s Med Center is seeking to overturn a state law that would force it to close unless it receives a written transfer agreement from a local hospital.

About the Authors