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Ohio sued to stop abortion law that could shutter clinics

February 25, 2022 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A lawsuit filed Friday seeks to block enforcement of a new Ohio abortion restriction signed in December that included additional licensing requirements that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood argue are unnecessarily onerous.

The action filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order followed by a preliminary injunction preventing the Ohio Department of Health from enforcing the law before it goes into effect March 23.

The bill’s stated goal was to impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care in the extremely rare circumstance when a baby is born alive following an abortion attempt. However, provisions were added to the legislation that prevented abortion providers from contracting with backup physicians who teach at or contract with public medical schools.

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Abortion rights groups said eliminating such a broad swath of physicians to serve as their back-ups could lead to two clinics in southwest Ohio being closed.

“Senate Bill 157, in the guise of a technical requirement for a licensing variance, is actually an extreme and dangerous law that seeks to eliminate access to procedural abortion services in southwest Ohio,” Amy Gilbert, staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement announcing the suit. “Ohio politicians are piling yet another medically unnecessary, arbitrary and onerous requirement on abortion facilities in an attempt to put abortion out of reach for Ohioans.”

Both Women’s Med in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in suburban Cincinnati operate under state variances that include partnerships with several doctors. Women’s Med’s doctors are known to have ties to Wright State University’s medical school and Planned Parenthood’s statements suggest its doctors may have such ties, as well.

Planned Parenthood has described the law as another in a series of TRAP laws, or “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” aimed to eventually make abortion unavailable inside state borders. The procedure remains constitutionally protected for now.

The bill was sponsored by Republican state Sens. Terry Johnson, a retired doctor, and Steve Huffman, a practicing physician. Huffman has called the bill “another step in our continued commitment to uphold the sanctity of human life.”

Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, calls the new law “anti-infanticide.”