COLUMBUS, Ohio — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers challenging several Ohio laws that together force abortion patients to wait a minimum of 24 hours after receiving unnecessary state-mandated information in person before they can access their desired abortion care. These laws violate Ohio’s constitutional right to reproductive freedom passed on November 7, 2023. Ohio is one of four states that have amended their constitutions to enshrine a fundamental right to abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

The lawsuit was filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Northeast Ohio Women’s Center, and Dr. Catherine Romanos.

The challenged abortion restrictions unnecessarily require the overwhelming majority of patients to make two trips to a health center and, in practice, often force patients to wait much longer than 24 hours to receive an abortion. This delays—and in some cases, completely prevents—patients from receiving an abortion. Under Ohio law, no other medical treatments or procedures that are similarly time-sensitive are subject to a legally-imposed waiting period or a requirement that a patient make a separate, in-person visit to obtain state-mandated information prior to receiving care. The challenged abortion restrictions provide no health benefit and lack any medical justification. Rather, by unnecessarily delaying time-sensitive abortion care and forcing upon patients information that is often harmful, distressing, and stigmatizing, the laws only harm Ohioans’ health and well-being.

“These laws are now in clear violation of the newly amended Ohio Constitution, which enshrines the explicit and fundamental right to abortion and forbids the state from burdening, prohibiting, penalizing, and interfering with access to abortion, and discriminating against abortion patients and providers,” added Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio. “Whatever a patient’s reasons, accessing abortion is essential to their autonomy, dignity, and ability to care for themselves and their families.” 
“Today’s filing marks a pivotal moment in Ohioans’ fight for reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy. With the Ohio Constitution now explicitly protecting the right to abortion, discriminatory restrictions that require only abortion patients to delay receiving medical treatment that they have already firmly decided they want, to make additional, unnecessary in-person visits to a clinic to receive that care, and to receive irrelevant and potentially distressing and stigmatizing information can finally be dismantled,” added Meagan Burrows, Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. 

“The singling out of abortion for differential and unfavorable treatment perpetuates the discriminatory view that patients do not think carefully about their decisions and do not understand the nature of the procedure. This is a patronizing stereotype that has no place in our laws,” added Bethany Lewis, LISW-S, Executive Director of Preterm.

“This filing is just the first step toward making the will of Ohioans a reality after they overwhelmingly voted in support of Issue 1. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio is committed to ensuring Ohioans can access high-quality, patient-centered reproductive health care including abortion. That means we must also reduce the barriers that prevent people from accessing care. By eliminating the burdensome and unnecessary 24-hour wait period, we will be able to better serve our patients, and they will be able to return to their lives sooner after receiving the health care they need and deserve,” noted Dr. Adarsh Krishen, Chief Medical Officer, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

“We see the effects of the 24-hour delay on patients every day. This medically unnecessary waiting period puts a strain on patients, some of whom must arrange for multiple-day stays to access abortion care and, by design, even prevents some people in need from accessing abortion entirely. This filing is the first step in removing unnecessary barriers to care, like the people of Ohio demanded when voting yes on Issue 1. Removing targeted restrictions against abortion means more agency for patients to access the health care they need when they need it based on their own informed decisions, as the Ohio Constitution now requires,” shared Dr. Sharon Liner, Medical Director, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.   

“This filing is a crucial step to ensure all Ohioans can access the care they deserve. They made their voices heard last year by voting to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution, and our fight continues to make sure that Ohioans can actually access abortion care without harmful, unnecessary hurdles such as waiting periods,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The plaintiffs ask the court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to stop the state from enforcing these restrictions, and to declare them to be unconstitutional under Ohio’s right to reproductive freedom.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.