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Judge Temporarily Blocks Ohio's Telemedicine Abortion Ban

A sign is displayed at Planned Parenthood of Utah Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer
Associated Press
A sign is displayed at Planned Parenthood of Utah Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

A Hamilton County judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that prevents doctors from using telemedicine to write prescriptions for medication abortions. It's the second time this week that a new abortion law has been put on hold.

The hold lasts until April 19, when a larger lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law moves forward in the court system.

Laurel Powell with Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio says the new law, which was supposed to take effect next Monday, denies women their constitutional right to an abortion.

“It wasn’t O.K. to single out abortion care and say, ‘We’re O.K. with telemedicine except for this one case,'” Powell says.

SB 260, which passed with no Democratic votes during December's lame-duck session, bans doctors from administering mifepristone via a telehealth appointment to medically induce an abortion. The law requires doctors to be physically present when their patients take the first of two pills used in medication abortions, and threatens them with felonies if they don't comply.

Planned Parenthood filed suit last week against the Ohio Department of Health, the state Medical Board and prosecutors in the state's three largest counties. The organization says it's used telemedicine safely for years to provide medication abortions.

Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis says the law is needed to keep pregnant women and their fetus safe.

Earlier this week, a judge blocked enforcement of a new law that requires cremation or burial of fetal tissue until the Ohio Department of Health clarifies rules for abortion clinics to follow. That law, which abortion providers argued effectively banned all such procedures in the state, was set to take effect Tuesday.

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.