How the Ohio Supreme Court is helping Gov. Kasich whittle away abortion rights

Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the only remaining abortion care provider in the Toledo, Ohio area reached a deal that may allow it to remain open, despite an Ohio Supreme Court ruling that the clinic had not followed a 2013 state law.

The law in question, according to both medical professionals and abortion rights advocates, is not medically necessary — but it does add an administrative burden that can be difficult for abortion providers to comply with. Abortion clinics in Ohio must sign a patient-transfer agreement with a local hospital in case of emergency. But another state law prohibits public hospitals from signing transfer agreements with abortion clinics — which means abortion providers are at the mercy of private hospitals, many of which are Catholic-owned or may be otherwise reluctant to enter into a public agreement with an abortion provider.

This month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision that Capital Care Network of Toledo had violated the 2013 patient-transfer law. On Wednesday, however, the clinic entered into a patient-transfer agreement that should allow it to continue providing abortion services to women in northwest Ohio.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote a dissenting opinion, in which she was joined by former Justice William M. O’Neill, who resigned January 26 to run for governor in the upcoming midterm elections. O’Connor wrote that Capital Care had complied with state health department rules, and concluded that the 2013 patient-transfer law is unconstitutional. Capital Care is expected to appeal the decision in its case, if needed.

In a related ruling this month, Ohio’s high court halted litigation against the state by health care provider Preterm of Cleveland.

Pro-choice advocates believe both decisions negatively impact Ohio women seeking safe and legal abortions. And they say that the decisions are right in line with the agenda of Gov. John Kasich, who has actively worked to restrict abortion in Ohio both through the laws he signs and the people he appoints to his administration.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the ruling supports Kasich’s “anti-abortion agenda” while ignoring past case law.

“Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe and legal health care in her community,” said Copeland.“In. Her. Community. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Copeland added that the decision does nothing to protect women’s health.”In fact, it does quite the opposite,” she said. “This decision pushes abortion out of reach and punishes women for their decision to end a pregnancy.”

In a separate case, sexual health clinic Preterm contends that the 2013 patient-transfer law was unconstitutional and added undue burdens on its operations. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the clinic lacked standing to challenge the law.

Preterm’s case cannot advance to the U.S. Supreme Court because it involves a state constitutional question. But according to Bloomberg News, an attorney for Preterm said the clinic is considering other options.

Since taking office in 2011, Kasich has ended funding for Planned Parenthood and banned public hospitals from performing abortions.

The governor also signed legislation changing Ohio law on late-term abortions. Typically, a late-term procedure is regarded as anywhere from 23 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Under Ohio’s newer, more stringent rules, a late-term abortion is defined as any time beyond 20 weeks, unless a doctor determines the fetus cannot live outside of the womb or is not viable after that time.

According to NARAL, as of December 2017, Kasich had signed into law “19 ‘attacks’ on abortion rights and funding for reproductive health care providers.” Kasich has also signed into law multiple abortion bans with no exceptions for rape and incest.

Advertisement