How U.S. Supreme Court's Decision On Texas Abortion Law Might Affect Ohio

Jun 27, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a Texas law that required doctors performing abortions in the Lone Star state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and required abortion clinics to meet standards for ambulatory surgical centers.  How does that ruling affect Ohio?

State lawmakers have put in place restrictions on Ohio abortion clinics that are similar to those in Texas. So the leader of NARAL Pro Choice Ohio, Kellie Copeland, says the Supreme Court’s ruling against the state of Texas is a victory for abortion clinics in Ohio too.

NARAL Pro Choice Ohio Director Kellie Copeland

“We think that Ohio politicians were put on notice.”

Attorney Jennifer Branch of Gerhardstein and Branch, a law firm that has argued many court cases for abortion providers, says this ruling will affect similar laws in place in Ohio that require abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals.

“The State of Ohio has been told by this decision to stop adding restrictions to clinics purely for the purpose of shutting clinics down and prohibiting access to abortion.”

But Mike Gonadakis with Ohio Right to Life doesn’t think this Texas ruling has any bearing on Ohio’s abortion laws.

“While it was a punch in the gut to the pro life movement, we believe that Ohio’s regulatory scheme will not be impacted negatively or positively as it relates to the Texas decision.”

Gonadakis says it does confirm his group’s contention that the nation’s high court is not ready to accept some abortion measures – such as the bill that would ban an abortion when a heartbeat could be detected or the personhood plan that would ban abortion at a point an egg is fertilized. And he says the ruling shows measures such as that so-called “heartbeat bill” or the self-titled “Personhood Amendment” go too far.

“We need to grow up here in Ohio as it relates to the legislation that we are putting forth and do things that are responsible, do things that are common sense and that we know will survive a court challenge because what we saw in Texas sets the movement back.”

Gonadakis believes there is some legislation under consideration at the Statehouse right now that would be constitutional if passed. That includes the bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, which supporters say is the point at which a fetus can feel pain, and the bill that would require abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains.

“We think those two cornerstone foundational pieces of legislation can get to the Governor and withstand any court challenge.”

But Branch says that fetal remains bill might not be constitutional at all.

“The undue burden, let’s say in the fetal disposal statute that might come out, if it doubles or triples the cost of an abortion then whatever the state is claiming is justification for that could be challenged under the Supreme Court’s explanation of how we prove that it would be an undue burden. So hypothetically, I can see a situation of how the state could pass that law and a challenge could be made to it that would be pretty simple.”

What happens in the here and now with the transfer agreement laws that are already in place? It’s not exactly clear. Emmalee Kalmbach, a spokeswoman for Gov. John Kasich and a former employee of Ohio Right to Life, says Ohio’s laws have been in place since the mid 90’s. She says it’s premature to know if this decision will impact Ohio. And she says the Governor’s legal team is currently studying the situation.