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For second time, Ohio judge halts law aimed at shuttering last Dayton, Cincinnati abortion clinics

by Apr 16, 2022Local News

In this June 4, 2019, file photo, anti-abortion advocates gather outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. In Ohio, a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Cincinnati area could be shut due to the passing of Senate Bill 157. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)AP

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio judge, for the second time, blocked the enforcement of a law that could shut down surgical abortion clinics in Southwest Ohio.

Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alison Hatheway granted a preliminary injunction Friday to keep the state from enforcing Senate Bill 157 through June 21.

SB 157 originally required a physician to perform life-saving medical interventions on “botched abortions,” which abortion-rights supporters said are rare.

Republican lawmakers amended the law just before sending it to Gov. Mike DeWine, who signed it into law, to require the Ohio Department of Health to pull the variances it gave to Women’s Med Center in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in Cincinnati to stay open. Lawmakers have passed over dozen abortion restrictions since 2011, including one requiring the clinics to secure transfer agreements with nearby private hospitals in the case of emergencies, which each hospital was unable to obtain.

Friday’s order marked Hatheway’s second block on the law. On March 2, she issued a temporary restraining order against its enforcement.

Temporary restraining orders generally only last for a couple of weeks, but in this case, Hatheway set it until Friday. The state had agreed to the extra time, so it could work on its defense, said Jessie Hill, an attorney working with the ACLU of Ohio to fight the law. Then on Friday, she granted the preliminary injunction through June 21, Hill said.

Between now and June 21, the clinics will work to try to comply with the law, Hill said.

That would require them to find a nearby private hospital to enter into a transfer agreement with. In the past, that has been challenging because the nearby private hospitals are owned by religious organizations that oppose abortion or companies unwilling to wade into the abortion rights debate.

Another option for the Southwest Ohio clinics is to enter into consulting agreements with physicians who are not employed by a state university, state hospital or other public institution. The two clinics currently have consulting agreements with local doctors, but their work in the public sector would disqualify them under SB 157.

If Women’s Med Center and Planned Parenthood are unable to find an arrangement by June 21, Hill said the attorneys representing the clinics would likely ask Hatheway for another preliminary injunction. That will buy them time to challenge the constitutionality of SB 157 and try to get it struck down, she said.

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