ACLU sues Ohio for including abortion restrictions in its budget

CLEVELAND Wed Oct 9, 2013 4:23pm EDT

Susan O. Scheutzow, attorney and ACLU board member, speaks at a news conference to address three abortion related amendments to the 2013 Ohio budget bill in Cleveland, Ohio, October 9, 2013. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Susan O. Scheutzow, attorney and ACLU board member, speaks at a news conference to address three abortion related amendments to the 2013 Ohio budget bill in Cleveland, Ohio, October 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aaron Josefczyk

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued the state over including abortion-related provisions in its budget, in what abortion rights activists charged was an effort to quietly restrict women's access to clinics.

The ACLU said Ohio unconstitutionally approved three restrictions along with the state budget in June, including one that bars public hospitals from having patient transfer agreements with clinics, which were unrelated to budget issues.

Ohio, which has a Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor, has become known among abortion rights supporters as a testing ground for restrictions, as conservatives have pushed a number of new proposed abortion provisions on the state level over the past three years.

"(The amendments were) highly controversial social legislation that were snuck into a must-pass budget bill in the eleventh hour without public debate or input," said ACLU cooperating attorney Jessie Hill.

At least two of the three abortion restrictions, one requiring that patients receive details about fetal heartbeat before they undergo an abortion and the transfer agreement ban, have nothing to do with the budget, the ACLU said.

Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, called the lawsuit "a legal stunt by the ACLU that will end up costing the Ohio taxpayers."

Gonidakis is a member of the Ohio State Medical Board and a defendant in the lawsuit.

Abortion rights advocates have expressed concern that Ohio's transfer agreement law, which was threatening to close Toledo's only abortion clinic, could be replicated elsewhere, as eight other states require abortion clinics to have transfer agreements.

One of the Ohio budget amendments bars abortion clinics from making agreements to move women needing emergency care to public hospitals. This amendment is threatening closure of Capital Care in Toledo, because its transfer agreement with a public hospital expired in July and, under the new law, the clinic cannot renew it.

The other Ohio amendments require clinics to present patients with evidence of a fetal heartbeat before performing abortions and create a "parenting and pregnancy" program to give state money to private groups that are forbidden to discuss abortion services, the ACLU said.

The ACLU said the first two amendments have nothing to do with budget appropriations - while the third creates and funds a new government program, something it said requires stand-alone legislation.

The lawsuit also names Governor John R. Kasich, a Republican who signed the budget bill, the state of Ohio, and Theodore Wymyslo, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Spokesmen for Kasich and the health department said they had no comment on the litigation.

The ACLU of Ohio filed the lawsuit in Cuyahoga County court on behalf of a Cleveland clinic that provides contraception and abortion services.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (4)
Big2Tex wrote:
I think we should late-term abort all members of the ACLU. Just saying.

Oct 09, 2013 12:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RichardJR wrote:
Regardless of how you feel about the ACLU, it sounds like the Ohio legislature violated the Ohio constitution…

Oct 09, 2013 2:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
pro-plan-now wrote:
If the ACLU and everyone else spent as much time and energy and resources trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies as we do defending personal positions on what to do after the fact, perhaps this would not be an issue. Will that day ever come?

According to Guttmacher’s “Incidence and Outcomes of Unintended Pregnancy,” “half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended.” pro-r and pro-l have not gotten us very far as a society.

The time is right for pro-plan. promotes a dialogue to together pool resources from all camps to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Please join us!

Oct 10, 2013 10:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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