Abortion ruling sends message, though Ohio impact unclear


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Texas restrictions on abortion clinics might bring renewed focus on an Ohio proposal regarding aborted fetal remains.

A bill that would require Ohio hospitals and providers to cremate or bury such remains passed the Senate earlier this year and a similar proposal is pending in the House. Lawmakers are on summer recess and are unlikely to consider the measure until after the November election.

A Cincinnati lawyer who has represented some of Ohio’s abortion clinics as they sought to remain open or challenge state rules said she thinks Monday’s Supreme Court ruling could help challenge Ohio’s restrictions — either in pending cases or new litigation — but she wasn’t immediately sure how.

“The bottom line is that 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 women’s access to abortion,” attorney Jennifer Branch said Monday. The state has nine abortion clinics left, and three of those are in litigation, she said.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said “Ohio politicians were put on notice” by the ruling and should take it as a sign to stop pursuing legislation to limit abortion access without medical justification.

If the fetal remains proposal were enacted and significantly raised costs for a mother having an abortion, the ideas in the Supreme Court’s decision about proving an undue burden might help challenge such a law, Branch said.

The Texas rules that were struck down required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said the ruling “tramples a state’s right to safely regulate abortion facilities,” but he doesn’t think it affects existing Ohio laws that apply to abortion providers because they’re different than the Texas rules. Ohio’s rules apply to all ambulatory surgical facilities, including abortion providers and other outpatient surgery centers, and require patient transfer agreements with hospitals or arrangements for backup doctors, not admitting privileges.

Gonidakis said Monday’s ruling doesn’t change his group’s approach. It won’t try to mimic the nixed Texas rules, but otherwise “we’re in the clear to continue to find ways to save babies, and we are undeterred,” he said.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the state Department of Health said they’re reviewing the Supreme Court ruling.

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