Bills Restricting Decisions on Pregnancy Are Unconstitutional, Says ACLU
COLUMBUS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on legislators today to shelve a group of bills restricting decision-making on pregnancies in order to avoid costly litigation. Ohio House Bill 125 would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This is often so early into a pregnancy, that it would be tantamount to outlawing almost all abortions. House Bill 78 would prohibit later abortions. On Tuesday, April 12, House Speaker William Batchelder postponed a vote on House Bill 78 and sent it back to committee, citing concerns that it might not withstand a legal challenge.
ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “These bills will drastically limit people’s constitutional right to make their own medical decisions. The state will be tied up in court for years, expending scarce resources to defend unconstitutional laws. The legislature is right to pause and avoid making taxpayers foot the bill for expensive litigation.”
“Decisions on pregnancies should be made by families and medical professionals. Oftentimes, families must take a variety of health, financial, emotional, and personal concerns into consideration before deciding to go forward with a pregnancy,” added Link.
Speaker Batchelder’s decision to reconsider the bills comes after months of testimony in the Ohio House of Representatives’ Health Committee. Throughout testimony on the bills, advocates from all sides of the abortion debate have raised serious concerns over the bills’ constitutionality. Ohio Right to Life announced that it would not endorse H.B. 125 because it believed it would not be upheld by the courts.
The courts long ago established Constitutional precedent that the decision to terminate a pregnancy belongs to the individuals involved, not the government. Recent decisions include Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of N. New England (2006) and Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey (1992).
“The courts have been very clear: these bills are unconstitutional. It is time for the state to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on a personal crusade, put these bills on the shelf, and move on to addressing the real problems this state faces,” added Link. “If the legislature passes these bills, it may cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend in court. Given Ohio’s current budget crisis, it is reckless to pass this legislation without fully considering the legal and financial implications.”
In addition to the House bills, the Ohio Senate has passed a similar bill on later abortions, Senate Bill 72. However, the House would also have to vote on Senate Bill 72 before it could go to Governor Kasich. Passage of any of the bills restricting abortion would face legal challenge.