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Ohio Supreme Court agrees to hear state appeal of injunction blocking Heartbeat law

by | Mar 15, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

A divided Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would hear the state’s appeal of Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins’ injunction blocking the state’s heartbeat law. The court, at this juncture, will not review whether the Ohio Constitution creates a right to abortion.

The Ohio Supreme Court said “it will address two of the state’s arguments, but not the third. The first argument involves whether the state could appeal the preliminary injunction before the trial court had finished its case,” Samantha Wildow reported. “The state’s then made the second argument that neither “abortion clinics nor abortionists have standing to challenge the Heartbeat Act.”

The court’s announcement “also comes one day after groups seeking to bring an amendment to the Ohio Constitution before voters in the November election that would ensure access to abortion clear their latest hurdle,” according to  Wildow. “Language for a citizen-led ballot initiative that would ensure access to abortion through a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution was approved Monday by the Ohio Ballot Board.”

Judge Jenkins issued the preliminary injunction from the bench on October 12 after a daylong hearing. The Associated Press’ Julie Carr Smyth wrote

“In impassioned remarks announcing his decision, Jenkins knocked the state’s arguments that the Ohio Constitution doesn’t ever mention abortion and so doesn’t protect the right to one. He said a right doesn’t have to be named to be protected. 

“This court has no difficulty holding that the Ohio Constitution confers a fundamental right on all of Ohioans to privacy, procreation, bodily integrity and freedom of choice in health care decision-making that encompasses the right to abortion.

Ohio Attorney General David Yost appealed Jenkins’ preliminary injunction to Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals. On December 16, by a vote of 3-0, the appeals court said that Yost had appealed “prematurely.” 

Kevin Grasha and Jessie Balmert wrote

“Of course, any aggrieved party can appeal after the trial court issues its final judgment in the case,” Judge Pierre Bergeron said in the opinion. “Our answer on the merits of this dispute and the underlying constitutionality of the statute … must await another day.”

Yost’s office plans to take the case to the Ohio Supreme Court. “The First District Court of Appeals has erred as a matter of law. We will seek review by the Ohio Supreme Court,” Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said Friday.

And Yost did appeal.

Asked about the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to take up the appeal, Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said, “We believe the court mostly got it right,” according to Wildow.

Gonidakis said he believed the court should also address the constitutionality of abortion, but he was supportive of the court’s decision to review the appeal. He said Ohio Right to Life believed it was imperative for the court to rule on the preliminary injunction and whether that can be appealed while the trial court case is still proceeding.

“The Heartbeat Law should stay in effect while its being litigated,” Gonidakis said. “We believe the court should expedite this and rule accordingly.”

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