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Medical, social work groups file support in Ohio Supreme Court abortion case




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The Ohio Supreme Court has heard from a wide variety of medical groups and an association for social workers, all of whom support a continued injunction on Ohio’s six-week abortion ban law.

Challengers of the state’s six-week abortion ban law, which was indefinitely paused by a Hamilton County court as a battle over the merits continues, also entered their arguments to the state’s highest court, hoping to get the appeal thrown out.

Representatives for abortion clinics across Ohio, including Pre-term Cleveland and Planned Parenthood, said the state was seeking to “circumvent the separation of powers” and “place the executive branch above the other branches” by asking the court to reject the lower court’s decision.

“Faced with unfavorable precedent, the state makes two asks of this court that lack any legal basis,” the attorneys for the clinics wrote in a court filing.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed the appeal with the state’s highest court, saying the Hamilton County court that issued the injunction didn’t have the jurisdiction to do so.

In arguing against the injunction itself, the state’s attorneys also said challengers to the law didn’t “have standing” to challenge the ban on abortions after six weeks of gestation.

The state said the First District Court of Appeals, who upheld the pause on the abortion ban was creating a “precedent empowering trial courts around the state to hold state laws hostage.”

Further arguing against the injunction, the AG’s office said doctors “have no right to perform abortions.”

Medical groups have filed their arguments fundamentally challenging this argument and the abortion law itself.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland & Northern Ohio stood on the side of Ohio’s Planned Parenthood clinics and Pre-term Cleveland, saying Ohio law itself calls abortion “the practice of medicine or surgery” when regarded for medical licensure purposes.

Throwing out the appeal, the groups said “is not only good law; it also supports the practice of good medicine.”

The academy said the provisions held within the abortion ban would subject physicians to “criminal, civil and disciplinary penalties for specific acts the General Assembly has deemed proscribed conduct, but is, in actuality, the practice of medicine.”

The medical professionals disagreed with the state’s argument that because abortion providers could not know who future patients could be, they couldn’t possibly consider the patients to have a proper physician-patient relationship.

“What is clear is that the physician is entrusted with deciding life and death issues facing a pregnant patient,” the academy wrote to the state supreme court. “There can be no closer relationship than being entrusted with the life of another.”

Laws restricting the ability for those seeking reproductive health care to seek out a physician’s care “jeopardize patient health and wellbeing,” the court filing by ACOG, AMA and the SFMF stated.

“As a matter of medicine, it is well-documented that the ability of people to seek and receive comprehensive pregnancy and reproductive health care, including pregnancy termination and abortion, is essential to the health of people, families and communities,” the brief stated.

The National Association of Social Workers and its Ohio chapter also stood behind the abortion providers and against the lawsuit. The group and its local chapter specifically pointed to “pervasive, complex and interlaced obstacles that stand in the way of patients” suing to challenge government interference when seeking an abortion.

“Simply put, a decision by this court to strip providers of their long-recognized standing to challenge restrictive abortion laws will force many patients to make an impossible choice: bring an individual lawsuit and risk harm to their privacy interests, safety, financial stability and mental and physical health, or forgo the ability to vindicate one’s rights through a trusted medical provider,” the NASW wrote in its brief.

In support of the state’s efforts to get the ban put back in place, 18 other state attorneys general wrote their own arguments in May, led by Mississippi’s AG Lynn Fitch.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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