Abortion providers challenge more Ohio laws regulating abortion care

Preliminary injunction continues to block many Ohio abortion restrictions while court challenges continue

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Abortion providers are continuing to challenge Ohio’s laws restricting access to abortion, filing new lawsuits or submitting updated complaints to include new claims under the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment, also referred to as Issue 1 last year.

Abortion providers recently filed an updated challenge against Ohio’s law restricting how they can prescribe medication abortion to patients. The law, which is currently under a preliminary injunction and not being enforced, requires physicians to be physically present where and when the initial dose of the drug is consumed.

Anti-abortion advocates called this court challenge “disturbing” but not surprising.

“Our concern is women’s health,” said Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life. “... It’s very concerning for us.”

This law, if enforced, would prohibit doctors from prescribing abortion medication via telehealth visits.

“Complications happen,” Christie said about what anti-abortion advocates see as the need for these restrictions.

If doctors violated this law and it was enforced, it would result in a fourth-degree felony for the first offense and a third-degree felony for the second and subsequent offenses.

“These arbitrary, medically unnecessary anti-abortion restrictions profoundly limit Ohioans’ ability to exercise their constitutional rights. We urge the court to strike them down,” said Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2021, is pending in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. The law in question remains blocked by the preliminary injunction entered by the court on April 20, 2021.

The court already found, in issuing a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ban, that telehealth medication abortion services are “safe, effective health care” and that a ban will delay and potentially preclude patients from accessing abortion care.

“We can all agree that health care needs to be more accessible, not less. More than half of the patients we serve travel significant distances to us to receive care,” said Dr. Sharon Liner, medical director of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region. “Unnecessary restrictions that ignore the expertise of medical professionals exacerbate the strain on patients and providers.”

The telehealth restriction did not apply to patients seeking mifepristone, a drug that blocks a hormone called progesterone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue, for the use of a miscarriage. The telehealth restriction was only for patients seeking an abortion, so Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison Hatheway wrote this exception revealed the law was “in no way responsive to the purported risks of mifepristone.”

Abortion providers have sought to challenge other abortion restrictions in the state, including the 24-hour waiting period from when patients receive state literature on abortions to when they can undergo the procedure.

“That’s what we anticipated to happen is for them to, one by one, roll back on the protections we put in place,” Christie said. “... We’re just going to try to keep educating women.”

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