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ACLU challenges Ohio's anti-abortion laws, but not on grounds some expected
The key is whether including them in the state budget violated the Ohio Constitution's requirement that laws deal with a single subject

Jo Ingles
Groups protesting the state's new anti-abortion laws have taken to the Statehouse steps and now to the courts with the same argument: The restrictions didn't belong in the state budget.
Courtesy of KAREN KASLER
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The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the state over three controversial abortion-related amendments that were part of the state’s new two-year budget. Critics of the laws say they didn’t get adequate public hearings. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, the suit contends they also violate Ohio’s constitution.

LISTEN: ACLU challenges Ohio abortion laws

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed the suit on behalf of Preterm, a Cleveland area clinic that provides birth control and abortions.

It’s challenging three new laws that restrict abortions in Ohio. One forbids public hospitals from signing the transfer agreements abortion clinics must have to operate. Another mandates what doctors must tell patients about fetal viability and heartbeats. And the third channels state money to clinics that are forbidden to talk about abortion services as an option.

Why in the budget?
ACLU lawyer Susan Scheutzow says the restrictions violate the Ohio constitution’s single-subject rule, which says each law can deal only with a directly related issue.

“They all are to make a woman’s choice to have an abortion more difficult in the state of Ohio, more difficult for the abortion clinics to operate and more onerous for the woman to make that decision,” said Scheutzow. “And the problem with the law is that these provisions were put into a budget bill that had nothing to with the state budget and passed through without an opportunity to be heard.”

The lawsuit doesn’t surprise Mike Gonadakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.

Right to life says bills protect women
But it’s “very sad, though, because the one (provision) that would have given money to poor pregnant women now may be in jeopardy, (or be) postponed.”

Gonadakis says the lawsuit contradicts itself. That’s because at least one of the provisions does deal with money; the ACLU just doesn’t like how it would be spent.

“What we are seeing here is the ACLU and the abortion industry trying to make a political statement through litigation. There’s no place for it at all. What’s going to happen is it is going to cost taxpayers a significant amount of money and at the end of the day, all three of the pro-life laws are going to be upheld.”

Single-subject history
An attorney who has followed Statehouse politics for many years believes there’s a good chance the single-subject argument won’t sway a court.

“We’ve seen people raise challenges to that over the years,” says Mark Weaver. “They are rarely successful.”

Weaver has been a strategist, mostly for Republican candidates. He says the judges try to stay out of political decisions.

“They try to give great deference to the elected policy makers of the state….in this case, the General Assembly.  So absent a very clear violation of the single-subject rule, courts are hesitant to step in and undo the policy maker’s decisions.”

The ACLU’s attorney, Scheutzow, contends, though, that the single-subject argument has won out in the past, including in a case involving the Cleveland schools voucher program. She thinks this lawsuit has a good chance of succeeding, though she expects a long court battle. 

“I would not expect the entire matter to be resolved for some time because we think the matter will ultimately be before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Scheutzow says the new laws weren’t given adequate public hearings in the Legislature, but she’s hoping they will get thorough consideration by the courts.

Listener Comments:

money talks: You're right, the government should not mandate morals. These clinics should be allowed to remain open for business until there are no clients requesting abortions. Let the free market rule!

The state should stop putting itself in the way of lawsuits and all and leave these businesses alone. If there is a market for their business, so be it. If not, then we don't need legislation to shut them down, now, do we?

Posted by: The market talks (Oberlin) on October 22, 2013 8:10AM
Lord help us;- the government should not mandate morals.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness does not equal Obamacare look-alikes, it seems to equal the opposite, as most progressive schemes.
If it's possible any costs can be shifted to the taxpayers, they will be, because we are too busy with work and responsibilities to worry about politics.

Posted by: money talks on October 21, 2013 10:10AM
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