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U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Could Impact Lawsuit Over Ohio's Abortion Ban

U.S. Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal of an Alabama law that bans dilation and evacuation abortions, the method most commonly used in the second trimester. That means a lower court ruling, which said the ban was unconstitutional, will stand.

The decision could reverberate in Ohio, which passed a similar ban last year. That law was quickly challenged by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Med Center of Dayton, and was partially blocked by a federal judge in April.

Last month, both the state and the plaintiffs requested a delay in the case.

Jaime Miracle of NARAL ProChoice Ohio said the Alabama decision is a good sign for abortion rights supporters.

“These bans not only put the health and lives of Ohioans at risk but are clearly unconstitutional and are just wasting taxpayer dollars,” Miracle says.

In its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood argued that D&E procedures are the safest method after 15 weeks of pregnancy and the only method offered in outpatient facilities.

Until the case can be fully litigated, U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett in Cincinnati ordered Ohio not to bring criminal charges against doctors who perform the D&E procedure. He did allow other parts of the law to take effect.

Barrett said the law is likely to be declared unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on a “large fraction” of Ohio women.

The D&E ban includes an exception for the life of the mother, but none for cases of rape or incest. Barrett wrote in his decision that “the medical exception is narrowly drafted at best, and unconstitutionally vague at worst.”

Attorney General Dave Yost appealed the decision. Ohio Right to Life’s Mike Gonidakis said he thinks the federal court will ultimately let Ohio’s ban stand.

“We’ve had a lot of success – the pro-life movement that is,” Gonidakis says. “In the Sixth Circuit just recently, they upheld our defunding of Planned Parenthood law as being constitutional.”

Similar bans on D&E procedures, which abortion opponents call “dismemberment abortions,” have been stopped by lower courts in other states. In May, a federal judge struck down a Kentucky ban as unconstitutional.

And after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to revive Alabama’s law, a federal judge blocked a D&E ban in Indiana set to take effect July 1.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.