Reproductive Freedom on the Docket

Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, et al. v. Hodges, et al.

This case falls into the legal category of:

Status:
Active
Case Dates:
Tuesday, 1 September, 2015 - ongoing
Facts:

Ohio law requires that all surgical abortions must be performed in ambulatory surgical facilities that maintain a written transfer agreement with a local hospital. In its 2013 biennial budget bill, H.B. 59, Ohio tightened these restrictions by preventing abortion clinics from obtaining the necessary transfer agreement from public hospitals and by prescribing difficult requirements for abortion centers that seek a variance of the written transfer agreement requirement.

In its 2015 biennial budget bill, H.B. 64, Ohio added additional, and even more onerous, provisions: a facility’s license would be automatically suspended if the Ohio Department of Health either denies – or simply fails to act on – a variance application within 60 days. The automatic suspension provision would have taken effect on September 29, 2015 and would have put facilities at risk of being forced to shut down nearly immediately with no opportunity for a hearing.

Legal Theory:

The provisions of H.B. 59 and H.B. 64 in question violate women’s rights to liberty and privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment because of their undue burden on women’s right to terminate their pregnancies, and they violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process requirement by giving standardless and unreviewable authority to private parties. Further, these provisions violate abortion clinics’ right to equal protection by treating them differently from other similarly situated parties, and they violate clinics’ procedural due process rights by denying them procedural protections. Finally, these provisions violate the One-Subject Rule under the Ohio Constitution, which prohibits logrolling, or the practice of injecting unrelated provisions into a single bill.

Status:

We filed our Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction on September 1, 2015 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Plaintiffs are Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region (“PPSWO”) and Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation. We serve in an of-counsel capacity for Women’s Med Group.

These organizations operate the last two remaining ambulatory surgical facilities providing abortions in Southwest Ohio. Defendants are Ohio Department of Health Director Richard Hodges, University of Cincinnati Medical Center (“UCMC”), and UC Health.

Our Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that the provisions of H.B. 59 and H.B. 64 in question are facially unconstitutional as applied to our plaintiffs, and seeks a permanent injunction preventing Defendant Hodges from enforcing these provisions. Our Motion for Preliminary Injunction sought to prevent Defendant Hodges from suspending the plaintiff facilities’ licenses when the relevant provisions of H.B. 64 were to have gone into effect on September 29, 2015.

On September 30, 2015, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order maintaining the status quo and preventing the state from closing PPSWO’s facility until October 13. On October 13, 2015, our Motion for Preliminary Injunction was granted, preventing the Ohio Department of Health from enforcing the provisions of H.B. 64 in question and from suspending PPSWO’s license.

On November 2, 2015, Defendants UCMC and UC Health filed a motion to dismiss; our Response was filed on December 11, and Defendants filed a reply on December 31. On December 11, we also filed an unopposed motion to amend the complaint to provide additional factual support for our claims and to clarify the relief requested. On January 13, 2016, our Motion to Amend the Complaint was granted, and Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss was denied as moot. On January 15, 2016 we filed our amended Complaint and Defendants answered on January 29, 2016. Defendants filed a motion on February 1, 2016 to dismiss Defendant UC Health for lack of standing. After an order granted us an extension, we filed our opposition to the motion to dismiss on April 7, 2016. Defendants replied on April 25. On July 14 we filed a motion for extension of time to amend the complaint, and this motion was granted on July 19.

On September 21, 2016 the judge granted Defendants’ February 1, 2016 motion to dismiss the claims again UCMC and UC Health. We then filed our amended complaint on October 7, and Defendants filed their answer on October 17.

We had begun discovery under a schedule that would have culminated in a bench trial starting on December 1, 2017. On May 17, 2017, however, Defendants filed a motion to stay discovery and suspend the case schedule pending the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Capital Care Network of Toledo v. State of Ohio Department of Health, an appeal of a 2016 decision blocking the State from closing Toledo’s last abortion clinic because the clinic lacked a written transfer agreement. On June 6, the Court held a status conference. On June 20, the court entered an order vacating the December 1 trial date. However the court did not suspend the discovery requests that are currently pending, and its order expressly permits the parties to conduct limited discovery, including depositions, by agreement. Documents have been produced and depositions are being scheduled. After a decision in Capital Care Network, a new calendar order will be entered.