Last week, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld an Ohio law that allows the state to cut off state funding to abortion providers. On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health announced it will end Planned Parenthood's funding in 30 days.
Meanwhile, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order late Thursday that partially blocked an Ohio law banning an abortion method called dilation and evacuation — the most common method of second-trimester abortions. (NOTE: A separate story about this issue appears below.)
Iris Harvey, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, called the funding announcement "heartless."
"Ohio continues to put politics over people, putting them at greater risk," Harvey said. "This isn't about politics, this is about lifesaving health care."
The terms of the decision are such: A 2016 law signed into effect by then-Gov. John Kasich sought to slash Planned Parenthood's funding because the organization performs abortion. The law was originally struck down by a federal district judge, then by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But the full appellate court upheld the measure, reversing the other judges' findings.
As of Tuesday — the day the law went into affect — the state health department was supposed to comply with the ruling and terminate funding to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood asked the 6th Circuit to delay the law from going into effect while the organization prepares an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, in a court filing, new state Health Director Amy Acton said the request was a "very effective delay tactic," noting that Planned Parenthood never said it was filing a petition with the Supreme Court in its original motion. Acton added that Planned Parenthood's case is unlikely to prevail in front of the Supreme Court.
As for funding, Acton said Planned Parenthood will not suffer financial harm from the termination of state money.
"It will not be injured at all," she said in the motion. "Planned Parenthood claims that it will have to cut programs if it loses state funding. That claim is dubious. ... Ohio's taxpayers should not be on the hook for additional payments — payments to which Planned Parenthood is not entitled, and that Ohio will be unable to reclaim — simply because Planned Parenthood failed to plan ahead."
Planned Parenthood officials argue the state's choice stunts funding for services that reduce infant mortality rates, prevents violence against women and provides cancer screenings, HIV tests and sex education.
The decision from the health department came just hours before a federal judge temporarily blocked a separate state law that bans dilation and evacuation abortions from taking affect.
"Because of this ruling, clinics will still be able to provide the same excellent level of care today that they did yesterday," NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jaime Miracle said. "We are appreciative of this temporary relief. We are hopeful as the case continues through the process and all the evidence can be presented, Ohio will follow the other states where courts have blocked similar bans."
The method is the most common used in second-trimester abortions. In a "D&E," a woman's cervix is dilated and the fetus is removed using suction and surgical instruments. A law banning the method was signed by Kasich in late 2018. Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights supporters sued over the law in mid-February.
"As a society we cannot in good conscious allow a procedure that dismembers a living unborn baby to continue," Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said. "We don't stand for that sort of treatment of any other living creature, and we won't stand for it when its being done to the most vulnerable among us."
©2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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Federal judge partially blocks Ohio law tightening abortion restrictions
By Eric Heisig - Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)
CLEVELAND — A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order late Thursday that partially blocked an Ohio law banning an abortion method called dilation and evacuation — the most common method of second-trimester abortions.
Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett in Cincinnati listed several portions of the law, which then-Gov. John Kasich signed in December, that he barred from being enforced. He did not fully block the implementation of the law, which is set to go into effect Friday.
The law makes it a fourth-degree felony to perform the procedure, commonly known as D&E, and carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison. It says the procedure can only be done if the doctor first causes “fetal demise” or if the mother’s life is at serious risk.
The judge put the restraining order in effect for 14 days.
Barrett’s ruling stems from a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed in February. The organization — which has abortion clinics in Bedford Heights, Columbus and Cincinnati — noted that D&E is the safest and most common method of abortion after about 15 weeks of pregnancy. During the procedure, the woman’s cervix is dilated and the fetus and other tissue are removed with surgical instruments and suction.
Planned Parenthood said the law was unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on women seeking abortions after 15 weeks.
Lawyers for the state said government interests justify the new law because “Ohio seeks to promote respect for life, protect the medical community, and eliminate the possibility for pain for the unborn child,” according to Thursday’s order. The head of Ohio Right to Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group, called the D&E procedure “barbaric.”
Barrett, appointed by President George W. Bush, did not rule Thursday on whether the law is constitutional. Instead, he said he wants to hear more evidence from both sides before he rules on constitutionality and whether to impose a preliminary injunction.
The judge wrote, though, that other courts have reviewed laws similar to the one Ohio passed and found them to be unconstitutional. However, the state has questioned whether those other courts used the correct legal standard, according to Barrett.
The judge’s order follows a hearing he held Monday, and does not completely block the state’s ability to enforce the new law. Specifically, his order blocks the state from enforcing the law against doctors who perform the procedure for a woman who is less than 18 weeks pregnant.
After that, prosecutors can enforce the law, though with a few exceptions:
A doctor may not be prosecuted if they accidentally remove a part of the fetus while trying to comply with the requirement to bring about fetal death.
Prosecutors also may not charge a doctor if they perform the procedure after an attempt to terminate the fetus fails.
A doctor may perform the procedure without first terminating the fetus if they determine that terminating the fetus is not a viable option or is “medically impossible for the patient.”
Neither Planned Parenthood nor Attorney General Dave Yost’s office immediately released statements regarding Thursday’s decision.
Barrett’s decision comes in the wave of recent activity both in the courts and in the Republican-controlled legislature regarding Ohio’s abortion laws.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that a measure lawmakers passed in 2016 to keep Planned Parenthood from receiving public money to pay for non-abortion-related health care programs was constitutional.
The Ohio Senate also passed a bill last week that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill is now in the House.
©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
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