COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) - Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics sued Wednesday to thwart Ohio's latest and most restrictive abortion law, an anticipated move that's part of a national anti-abortion strategy to challenge the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
The lawsuit is similar to legal fights in several southern states that recently passed similar, or more aggressive, legislation to push the now-conservative-leaning Supreme Court to take up abortion and overturn the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
Wednesday's lawsuit filed in federal court in Columbus by groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights attorneys says banning abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat is unconstitutional and would prohibit nearly all abortions in Ohio, or as many as nine of every ten.
A detectable heartbeat can come as early as five or six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant.
The Ohio law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine last month.
The lawsuit asks for a temporary and then permanent ban on the law taking effect, and to have it declared unconstitutional.
Chrisse France is executive director or Preterm, 1 of the clinics represented.
“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money,” she said.
Planned Parenthood of Ohio’s Iris Harvey says banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected is too restrictive.
“We’ve asked for a temporary injunction so that the judge can stop the law from going into affect and consider all the issues before he makes a final ruling,” said Harvey.
“Many women don’t know their period is late for maybe 6 weeks and so the opportunity to use their own intelligence and their own emotional needs to make a decision on safe and legal abortion is being eliminated. It’s being hijacked by the state with this ban,” she said.
Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States and is substantially safer than continuing a pregnancy to childbirth, the lawsuit said.
"If a woman is forced to continue a pregnancy against her will, it can pose a risk to her physical, mental, and emotional health, as well as to the stability and well-being of her family, including existing children," according to the lawsuit.
A message was left with the office of Ohio Attorney General David Yost, who is expected to fight the lawsuit.
At least five states have passed anti-abortion legislation that is aimed at provoking a legal challenge with the potential to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
"We believe that the heartbeat bill is the right vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Our strategy has always included a federal court challenge and today starts that judicial process," Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said Wednesday.
The ACLU of Ohio said on Facebook: "Our favorite phrase we'll see you in court just got teeth."
J. Bennett Guess, the executive director of ACLU of Ohio, said the organization made good on plans to sue the state to stop the bill from going into effect in July.
The Heartbeat Bill would prohibit abortion when a human heartbeat can be detected. An abdominal ultrasound can detect a heartbeat between eight and twelve weeks.
“The Supreme Court has never been more favorable to pro-life legislation than it is right now. Regardless of what happens at the district court level, we expect to have better legal outcomes from both the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court as well as the Supreme Court. We believe that the Court will look back at the wrongly decided Roe decision and overturn it, allowing each state to establish its own pro-life standards. We’re confident that Ohio will continue to be on the forefront of protecting human dignity from conception until natural death.”
While this case goes through the legal system, Ohio Right to Life officials say they will continue to advocate on behalf of pro-life legislation in Ohio, officials said in a statement.
France just worries what could happen if Pro-Life advocates get their way and abortion is outlawed.
“Make no mistake about it. If abortion becomes illegal it doesn’t eliminate abortion care. It’s just that people are going to resort to different means or having to travel out of state,” said France.
NBC4 reached out to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office for his reaction to the ACLU challenging the heartbeat abortion ban.
A DeWine spokesperson emailed us a statement reading, “This is an expected development. Governor DeWine has long said that this issue will ultimately be decided by the US Supreme Court.”
Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia have also approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. A judge in Kentucky blocked enforcement of that state's heartbeat ban after the ACLU filed suit on behalf of the clinic in Louisville.
An Alabama bill sent to Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday goes even further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright , and includes no exceptions for rape or incest.