CINCINNATI, Ohio (WCMH) – Abortions in Ohio are legal again through 20 weeks of gestation, at least for now.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins, a Democrat, penned the ruling Wednesday, which creates a temporary block for two weeks against S.B. 23, also known as Ohio’s heartbeat bill. He was responding to a motion for a temporary restraining order filed by five companies, which run abortion clinics in Columbus and other parts of the state.
In making his decision, Jenkins referenced the local case of a pregnant, 10-year-old sexual abuse victim who had to travel out of state to Indiana.
“This child was a victim of crime who should have had access to clearly needed health care in the form of abortion in her community,” Jenkins wrote. “S.B. 23 clearly discriminates against pregnant women and places an enormous burden on them to secure safe and effective health care such that it violates Ohio’s Equal Protection and Benefit Clause and is therefore unconstitutional.”
In the weeks post-Roe, a national audience targeted Ohio’s six-week abortion ban for debate with that real-world example of it in practice. Jenkins also referenced two cases where female cancer patients were denied chemotherapy until they terminated their pregnancies, but could not get abortions in Ohio because of the law.
“Her only choice other than foregoing chemotherapy was to travel out of state for [an abortion],” Jenkins wrote.
The decision in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court marks the latest in a series of legal challenges to the state law. Ohio’s heartbeat bill had been waiting to take effect since being signed into law in April 2019. The law prohibits abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which can surface six weeks into a pregnancy.
A federal court blocked enforcement of the heartbeat law three months after it passed, but that changed after Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. Attorney General Dave Yost successfully petitioned the federal court to dissolve the injunction, and though the law saw challenges from Ohio abortion clinics, was upheld by the state supreme court.
With news of the halt surfacing from Hamilton County, Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland forecasted a further legal battle coming.
“There will be more court proceedings before this is all over,” Copeland said. “It is important that everyone knows that we are not powerless in the face of the suffering caused by Governor [Mike] DeWine. This case will make its way to the Supreme Court of Ohio.”
However, Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis is betting on a legal contest to get the abortion ban back.
“Nowhere in the Ohio Constitution or anywhere in the Ohio Revised Code will any Ohioan find supporting evidence that Ohio’s current heartbeat law is anything other than good law which saves lives,” Gonidakis said. “We are more than confident that the heartbeat law will go back into effect relatively soon.”
A terminated pregnancy report from the performing doctor confirmed the 10-year-old rape victim was six weeks pregnant. The heartbeat law does permit abortion if the mother’s life is in danger, but it’s unknown how that might have applied in this case.