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Ohio Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on the state’s Heartbeat Law on September 27

by | Aug 16, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

Seated from left: Justice Patrick F. Fischer, Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, and Justice R. Patrick Dewine.
Standing from left: Justice Jennifer Brunner, Justice Michael P. Donnelly, Justice Melody J. Stewart, and Justice Joseph T. Deters.

Having unanimously turned down a legal challenge that asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the November vote on the pro-abortion “Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” initiative, the Court’s attention now turns to its decision to the oral arguments it will hear September 27 on the state’s Heartbeat Law.

Officially called the “Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act,” the law protects unborn children after the 6th week of pregnancy.  

This raises the possibility that the justices will issue a ruling on the Heartbeat Law prior to the November 7th vote on the initiative that would change the state’s constitution to enshrine unlimited abortion.

Zachary Smith, of Cleveland.com, explained that critics of the constitutional amendment argued

That the abortion rights petition did not identify which state laws would have to be repealed if the constitutional amendment were to be adopted.

The lawsuit points out that the amendment would repeal parts existing Ohio laws, including the Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act adopted in 2019, which bans abortion in Ohio after any embryonic cardiac activity is detected.

This includes the prohibition of performing an abortion on a pregnant person who has an embryo with a fetal heartbeat, and other laws covering fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome and parental consent on abortions.

But according to Jessie Balmert of the Cincinnati Enquirer

Attorneys for the abortion rights measure agreed that their petitions did not spell out which state abortion policies would be eliminated. However, they contended the Republicans’ arguments weren’t relevant, and the requirement to include those laws was unconstitutional.

The GOP politicos, through their attorney Curt Hartman, disagreed, saying the requirement to include laws that could be changed by a constitutional amendment “facilitates the integrity and confidence of the entire initiative process.”

Ultimately, the Ohio Supreme Court, composed of four Republicans and three Democrats, ruled in favor of the abortion rights measure.

“The fair and natural reading of (Ohio law) does not require a petition proposing a constitutional amendment to include the text of an existing statute,” according to the court’s opinion.

Republican lawmakers passed the Heartbeat Law in 2019, but the law was blocked by a federal judge. Reporter Morgan Trau wrote

When Roe fell in 2022, Ohio reinstated the six-week ban. Pro-abortion rights groups sued, and months later, a state judge indefinitely blocked the law from going into place, citing infringement of privacy.

Pro-abortion rights groups sued, and weeks later, a state judge indefinitely blocked the law from going into effect. This case has been sitting in the high court for half a year now.

Categories: State Legislation