The ACLU goes to bat for reproductive rights in Ohio

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation have launched a legal challenge to the state’s new anti-abortion law on behalf of Ohio-based abortion providers.

The latest in a series of state-level efforts to restrict abortion, H.B. 214 bans providers from performing an abortion if they are aware a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy is related to a fetal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Unless this suit or another like it succeeds, the law will take effect on March 23, 2018.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the law imposes an undue burden on the abortion right, which is rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy. (See, e.g., Roe v. Wade.) They’ve named as defendants the director of the Ohio Department of Health, the prosecutors who would be responsible for enforcing H.B. 214, and state medical board officials involved in physician licensing.

In a press release announcing the suit on Thursday, Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, took a thinly veiled shot at the Ohio Republicans behind the bill.

“Banning a woman from having an abortion because of a fetal diagnosis is not only unconstitutional, it also does absolutely nothing to address discrimination against people with disabilities. If Ohio politicians wanted to proactively take a stance for people with disabilities, they should improve access to health care, education, or other services. This ban is just a thinly-veiled attempt to criminalize abortion in Ohio. We are committed to work to ensure this unconstitutional law is never enforced.”  

The executive director of one of the clinics represented, Preterm’s Chrisse France, focused on the law’s effects on women’s health and autonomy. 

“When a woman has decided to end a pregnancy, she deserves care without judgment. This law would undermine the relationship between doctors and patients, making it harder for a woman to have an honest and informed conversation with her health care provider. Politicians should stop trying to prevent Ohio women from making thoughtful decisions about growing their families.”