Commentary

09.09.14

ACLU to Legislators: Stop Playing Games, Start Playing by Rules

By

Woman Waiting

When I was a kid, one of my best friends had a knack for changing the rules to the game every time he was losing. If we were playing hide and seek and I found him, he’d come up with some new rule forcing me to count to 100 again. If we were playing kickball, he’d rule every kick I made out of bounds with new boundaries that shifted by the minute. It was exhausting to play with him, but also just felt very unfair.

It might not surprise many of you to learn that Ohio legislators are no different than kids in some regards.

Take the issue of abortion clinics. In 2013, legislators snuck three provisions into the state budget that had nothing to do with the budget whatsoever. There was little chance for anyone in the public to discuss these provisions, even though they would seriously impact the ability for clinics to provide services to women in Ohio.

That’s why the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the state in October 2013, to stop legislators from playing games with women’s access to healthcare and to start playing by the rules of good government. Today, we are asking the court to rule immediately to stop legislators’ unfair games.

One of the most troubling provisions included in the state budget required clinics to have a transfer agreement with a local hospital. While seemingly innocuous, these transfer agreements are unfair in two ways:

  • They’re unnecessary. If a patient has a negative reaction during any procedure, a hospital must admit her whether the clinic has a transfer agreement or not. Abortions are among the safest of medical procedures with extremely low complication rates.
  • They’re restrictive. Only private hospitals can sign the transfer agreements, meaning hospitals that are publicly funded, such as those affiliated with a public university, cannot sign a transfer agreement.

The net result has been more clinics grappling with these unfair and constantly changing rules. Clinics in Toledo, Dayton, and Cincinnati have closed or are on the brink of closure, which would leave huge gaps in healthcare coverage for northern and southern Ohio women. Other clinics in Cleveland and Columbus have held steady, but the question remains: for how long? If legislators continue to change the rules and manipulate the system, the outcome will almost always be in their favor.

This is why the ACLU of Ohio filed a motion for summary judgment today, asking the court to rule on our case. Far too many clinics have had to grapple with these unconstitutional provisions, and it’s time for the court to strike them so that legislators get the message that they cannot just game the system.

 

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