From access to birth control, to unbiased sex education, to the right to an abortion, the ACLU works to ensure women have full control over their reproductive lives.
What's Happening in Ohio
The Ohio General Assembly started its new session in January 2015 and the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” has already been reintroduced. House Bill 69 recently had its second committee hearing in the House and, once again, the ACLU of Ohio testified against it. Like previous versions, the bill would outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The ACLU has promised to sue if this bill passes.
House Bill 248 (HB 248), commonly known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” was first introduced in the 2013-2014 session of the Ohio House in August of 2013. This is an extremely invasive bill that aimed to ban abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. The bill contained no exceptions for survivors of sexual violence or incest. While it claimed there was an exception to prevent the death or serious harm of the pregnant woman, it still subjected the woman and the physician performing the abortion to government unnecessary and intrusive scrutiny. It was sponsored by Reps. Christina Hagan (R., Alliance) and Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon).
The bill was passed out of the House Health and Aging Committee in a party-line vote of 11 to 6 on November 20, 2014, during the lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly. On December 10, 2014, HB 248 failed on the House floor. For more information, visit our legislative page.
On October 9, 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging several abortion-related amendments inserted into the massive 2013 state budget bill (HB 59).
One of the amendments in question bans public hospitals from making transfer agreements with abortion clinics. Another requires clinics to follow a government script when dealing with patients and to present those patients with evidence of a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion or face criminal charges. A third amendment creates a new state “parenting and pregnancy” program that siphons state money directly to private organizations that are forbidden from mentioning abortion services.
These amendments have no place in a state budget bill. In fact, they violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject rule,” which mandates that legislation deal with only one issue, the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations.
The abortion debate will no doubt continue, but allowing the legislature to violate the constitution in order to get what they want ultimately hurts us all.
That’s why this litigation is about reproductive justice and good government. You don’t have to be pro-choice to understand that the business of the legislature should be conducted above board and in the full light of day.
In April 2013, Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo announced that the university’s medical center (UTMC) would eliminate “transfer agreements” with two local facilities that provide abortion services–agreements the facilities need in order to operate.
The decision was made under pressure from the anti-choice group Ohio Right to Life and state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) who incorrectly implied that the agreements were potentially illegal.
The Toledo blade called the university’s decision a “cowardly capitulation” and the ACLU of Ohio quickly pointed out that federal law already requires facilities like UTMC to treat any patients whose lives are in danger, regardless of any transfer agreements.
Forcing clinics to make these redundant agreements with local hospitals, then intimidating those hospitals into rejecting the agreements is nothing more than a political tactic, spearheaded by bully legislators and a state medical board that has become increasingly radicalized since the appointment of an anti-choice lobbyist with no medical experience.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, the University of Toledo ob/gyn department, and a host of law professors, students and women’s rights advocates from across the state have joined the growing call for of UT to stop capitulating to the opponents of reproductive freedom.
You can help by signing this petition urging president Jacobs to reinstate UT’s transfer agreements so that local clinics can continue to provide essential health care for women in the Toledo area.
The Ohio General Assembly passed H.B. 79 on December 13, 2011, which would prevent a woman from purchasing abortion coverage under the new state healthcare exchange required under federal law. The ACLU believes the law runs afoul of a newly enacted state constitutional amendment that prohibits restrictions on the sale of insurance, and has vowed to challenge the law in court.
Legislators also conducted hearings on H.B. 125, which would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. If passed, the bill would effectively outlaw all abortions. On Dec 13, Senate president Niehaus (R-New Richmond) suspended hearings on the bill indefinitely after various constitutional concerns were raised.
The passage of H.B. 79 is one of a long line of new restrictions on families’ ability to make decisions on personal, private healthcare issues. This year alone, legislators have also approved:
- H.B. 78, which bans abortion at 24 weeks without an adequate health exception for the mother or exceptions for rape and incest. The bill also requires viability testing at 20 weeks gestation. However, there is no medically recognized procedure for determining the viability of a fetus between 20 and 24 weeks;
- H.B. 63, which makes it more difficult for minors to obtain a judicial bypass to have an abortion, if they cannot get the consent of one of their parents; and
- Amendments to the state’s budget to bar local public employee insurance plans from covering abortions and to bar public hospitals from providing abortions, except in cases of reported rape or incest or to save the life of the woman.
In June, 2012 the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio appeared before the U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth District, arguing that a 2004 Ohio law restricting the use of mifepristone is unconstitutional. Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is a medication that can terminate a pregnancy without subjecting the patient to surgery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use to terminate a pregnancy in 2000.
The ACLU of Ohio is co-counsel in this ongoing case, which is known as Planned Parenthood v. DeWine. The case has moved back and forth between lower court and appellate court several times in the last eight years.
The 2004 law bans “off-label” use of mifipristone. In practice this forces women to ingest three times more of the drug than is medically necessary and bans its use after an arbitrary date even though it could still be used safely and effectively.
The ACLU argues that the law takes medical decisions out of the hands of doctors and intrudes into the lives of families, unduly burdening them with surgery when a non-invasive medication is readily available.
The Ohio General Assembly has passed two bills that further curtail Ohio women’s reproductive rights, including a ban on abortions after 24 weeks and a ban on abortions performed in public hospitals. Other bills, including the “Heartbeat Bill,” are pending.