ACLU of Ohio Press Release – June 29, 2022

Following Devastating Decision overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion is currently banned at six weeks in Ohio.

COLUMBUS, OH — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm WilmerHale filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court today seeking to block the state’s six-week ban on abortion and to restore and further protect Ohioans’ reproductive rights secured by the Ohio Constitution.

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the federal constitutional right to abortion, a federal judge in Ohio granted the State’s request to allow the previously blocked six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 23, to take effect. Senate Bill 23 radically restricts access to abortion in Ohio by lowering the gestational age limit from 22 weeks to approximately six weeks, with very limited exceptions. A violation of this law by a provider is a fifth-degree felony.

The reproductive rights organizations and WilmerHale filed the lawsuit on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, Planned Parenthood Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Northeast Ohio Women’s Center, Toledo Women’s Center, and Dr. Sharon Liner, an individual abortion provider, to restore access to abortion in Ohio after six weeks and protect the right to abortion in our state under the Ohio Constitution.

Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio

“This sweeping measure, which prevents nearly every pregnant person from accessing essential care, is blatantly unconstitutional under Ohio’s state constitution which has broad protections for individual liberties. We ask the Ohio Supreme Court to stop enforcement of Senate Bill 23. Absent action from the court, many Ohioans will be forced to give birth against their will, many will have illegal or dangerous abortions, and some will die. People of color and low-income communities, who comprise the majority of patients seeking abortions, will be disproportionately impacted. We’ll keep fighting for abortion rights until every Ohioan is able to access the healthcare they need.”

Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Ohio and Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio.

“It has been just over three days since the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, and four days since Ohioans had their right to abortion stripped away, and limited to just six weeks of pregnancy. It’s hard not to lose hope in a moment like this. But we need to keep going, to fight for Ohioans to get the healthcare they need and deserve when they need it — and Planned Parenthood will be right with you in that fight. Let’s get to work.”

Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio

 “Right now, Ohio patients seeking care beyond six weeks are forced to travel hundreds of miles to access abortion, carry pregnancies to term against their will, or seek care outside the medical system. Senate Bill 23 was blocked for nearly three years, and after being in effect for just a few days, the real-world ramifications are horrific. This law must be stopped.”

Meagan Burrows, Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project

“The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs is disastrous and devastating for tens of millions of patients across the country. But it hardly gives states like Ohio a free pass from abiding by their own constitutions. We are committed to protecting as many people as possible from the traumatic experience of forced pregnancy, the consequences of which can last an entire lifetime and put the health and lives of everyday Ohioans at risk. With this filing, we are calling for the return of the basic humanity that was stolen.”  

As the federal district court found when it blocked Senate Bill 23 from taking effect in 2019, the ban poses an “insurmountable” obstacle to abortion access, restricting care to such an early stage of pregnancy that most patients do not even know they are pregnant. It is currently inflicting serious and irreparable harm on Ohioans who are in need of and constitutionally entitled to vital reproductive health care.

Banning abortion for women and other people who can become pregnant disproportionately harms people of color, those struggling to make ends meet, young people, rural residents, immigrants, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ communities. If abortion remains banned in Ohio, Black women and other people of color will continue to bear the brunt of the harm it inflicts. These communities already face a severe maternal mortality crisis that is worse in states determined to ban abortion.

The plaintiffs are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order state officials not to enforce S.B. 23 and to declare the ban unconstitutional.

Statement from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on lawsuit –