Hamilton County Judge Temporarily Halts Ohio Abortion Restriction

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian A. Jenkins this week imposed a two-week suspension on the Ohio law banning abortions for women whose unborn children have detectable heartbeats. 

Effectively, the statute, known as the “Heartbeat Law,” generally prohibits terminating pregnancies that have gone on for longer than six weeks. Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed the legislation in 2019 but agencies could not enforce it until this year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion nationwide. 

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union’s national and Ohio chapters as well as Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers sued Attorney General David Yost (R) and administrators of the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Medical Board to end the policy. 

Jenkins, a Democrat narrowly elected to the county bench two years ago, sided with the abortionists in declaring “there is a fundamental right to abortion under the Ohio Constitution.” In his decision, he acknowledged that “there is limited caselaw directly addressing” whether the document constrains lawmakers who want to protect unborn life insofar as Roe prevented states from doing so for nearly half a century. He did however quote a 1993 Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals determination that “the Ohio Constitution confers greater [abortion] rights” than the federal Constitution bestows. 

Ultimately, Jenkins relied on a provision of the Ohio Constitution granting “equal protection and benefit” to all state citizens as well as a Health Care Freedom Amendment, adopted in 2011 in opposition to Obamacare’s health insurance mandate, barring any rule prohibiting the sale of healthcare or medical coverage. The judge found that the HCFA “represents an express constitutional acknowledgement of the fundamental nature of the right to freedom and privacy” in the medical realm. 

“Read together with other applicable sections of the Ohio Constitution, a clear and consistent recognition [of] the fundamental nature of this right under Ohio law emerges,” Jenkins wrote. “Accordingly this Court recognizes a fundamental right to abortion under Ohio’s Constitution.” 

Pro-lifers rebuked the judge’s ruling, observing the lack of any mention of pregnancy or its termination in the state Constitution and predicting that higher courts will reverse Jenkins when considering an appeal. They also accused abortion advocates of improperly filing their case in the Cincinnati-based court because it is run by jurists who would be likely to oppose the pro-life cause. 

“By forum shopping, abortion activists temporarily got what they wanted which is the ability to abort children with a beating heart,” Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis said in a statement. “Nowhere in the Ohio Constitution or anywhere in the Ohio Revised Code will any Ohioan find supporting evidence that Ohio’s current heartbeat law is anything other than good law which saves lives. We are more than confident that the heartbeat law will go back into effect relatively soon.” 

Pro-aborts across the state meanwhile cheered Jenkins’ finding and promised a mettlesome fight to get the Heartbeat Law off the books permanently. 

“I am grateful that Ohio’s six-week abortion ban has been temporarily blocked,” state House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said after the decision’s announcement. “Every Ohioan deserves the freedom to make the healthcare decisions that are best for them and this ruling affirms that right. The fight to protect women’s freedom to control their own bodies doesn’t stop here; we can’t give up until this dangerous law that bans abortions before most women even know they are pregnant is overturned once and for all.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].



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