Ohio's six-week abortion ban temporarily blocked by legal challenge

FILE PHOTO - Protesters pray outside a Planned Parenthood location in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., November 12, 2021 as the state considers restrictive abortion laws. REUTERS/Gaelen Morse

Sept 14 (Reuters) - An Ohio judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of the state's Republican-led ban on abortion after about six weeks following legal challenges by a Planned Parenthood affiliate and other abortion providers.

Judge Christian Jenkins of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas in Cincinnati found that the state's constitution includes a right to abortion. Jenkins' emergency order will expire in two weeks, but the providers have asked the judge for another order that would block the law as long as the lawsuit is ongoing.

"We're grateful that, for now, Ohioans can once again widely access abortion care in their own state," the plaintiffs said in a joint statement.

The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, which is defending the law, is reviewing the decision and will consult with Republican Governor Mike DeWine about next steps, Yost spokesperson Bethany McCorkle said.

Ohio in 2019 passed a law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks, with exceptions for preventing death or serious injury to the mother but not for rape or incest.

The state's Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect in July after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed its landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade guaranteeing abortion rights nationwide. Ohio's law drew national attention later that month when a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. read more

In their Sep. 2 lawsuit, Planned Parenthood and the other providers argued that the state constitution still protected the right to abortion.

Jenkins agreed, in part because of a 2011 state constitutional amendment prohibiting laws banning sale or purchase of healthcare originally intended by opponents of the federal Affordable Care Act to preserve "healthcare freedom."

The judge said that despite its origins, the amendment was "a direct recognition of the fundamental nature of the right to freedom in health care decisions."

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Diane Craft

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Brendan Pierson reports on product liability litigation and on all areas of health care law. He can be reached at brendan.pierson@thomsonreuters.com.