U.S. judge blocks part of Ohio ban on abortion procedure

Julie Carr Smyth
Associated Press
In this April 11, 2019 file photo, Gov. Mike DeWine signs a bill imposing one of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions in Columbus, Ohio. A federal judge has blocked part of an Ohio law that bans the abortion method of dilation and evacuation in most cases.

Columbus, Ohio – A federal judge blocked part of an Ohio law late Thursday that bans the abortion method of dilation and evacuation in most cases, adding to a list of restrictions on the procedure that are or soon could be in legal limbo.

Senior U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett in Cincinnati ordered the state not to bring criminal charges against doctors who perform the D&E procedure under most circumstances until the case can be fully litigated. Other parts of the law were allowed to proceed.

The ruling comes as the state’s ban of abortions in cases involving a Down Syndrome diagnosis also is before the courts, and the ACLU plans a court challenge to a heartbeat abortion ban signed last week.

The ban on D&Es , the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, was signed by then-Gov. John Kasich last year. In Thursday’s ruling, Barrett agreed with Planned Parenthood the law is likely to be declared unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on a “large fraction” of Ohio women.

Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the ruling a victory for patients’ rights.

“This ban has no basis in medicine, which is why it has been opposed by the medical community,” she said in an emailed statement. “Women’s health care is health care. Reproductive health care is health care. And health care is a fundamental human right. Planned Parenthood will always safeguard the ability of our patients to access safe, legal abortion, no matter what.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said he was pleased Barrett “largely upheld the ban on dismembering unborn children while they are still alive.”

“Though we will continue defend the constitutionality of every part of the law, we appreciate the judge’s recognition that Ohio may ban abortion methods that are more brutal than any form of slaughter we would permit to be used on livestock,” Yost said in an emailed statement.

The Ohio law defines D&E as “dismemberment abortion” of a living fetus. Barrett agreed with the plaintiffs that such language creates an “implicit fetal demise” requirement in the law, essentially forcing doctors who perform the procedure to either end the life of a living fetus before conducting the abortion – which can be dangerous, ineffective or both – or not offering the D&E abortion at all.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said the state’s largest anti-abortion group is disappointed “yet not surprised” at the decision.

“However, even this judge recognized in his decision that states have greater leeway today to regulate abortion,” he said in an emailed statement.