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Ohio Judge Blocks Enforcement of Fetal Tissue Disposal Law

Ohio Capital Journal Ohio Capital Journal Ohio Judge Blocks Enforcement of Fetal Tissue Disposal LawColumbus abortion rights organizations joined #StopTheBans protests nationwide on May 21, 2019. Photo by Taijuan Moorman.
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By Susan Tebben

A Hamilton County judge has blocked an Ohio law regulating disposal of surgical abortion tissue that was set to take effect Tuesday.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison Hatheway granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday pausing the enactment of the law temporarily. The judge said because the state has not created forms, rules and regulations needed for clinics to follow the law, it can’t be put in effect quite yet.

“Without the required rules and forms in place, plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing procedural abortions because of the real threat of severe sanctions and penalties independent from criminal prosecution,” Hatheway said in court on Tuesday.

An attorney for the Ohio Department of Health said the rules would be put in place with an “emergency rule exception.”

“The most I can say is that my client’s telling me it will be done on an emergency basis in the near future,” said attorney Andrew McCartney.

Judge Hatheway said the law “substantially interferes with, if not denies” patients rights to access abortion under the Ohio Constitution.

“It is undisputed that at a minimum, the Ohio Constitution protects the right to access abortion, to the same extent as the federal Constitution,” Hathaway said in court on Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and health clinics in the state filed the challenge less than a month ago against Senate Bill 27, passed at the beginning of the year.

The law charges the Ohio Department of Health with implementing rules on proper disposal (burial or cremation) of tissue from surgical abortions, including pre-emptive forms, and imposes misdemeanor criminal charges on those that don’t adhere to the rules and regulations.

Planned Parenthood said the law would create “an impossible situation” for them because the law would take effect before rules were in place, thus exposing them to potential violations without their knowledge.

“There is a history of aggressive enforcement against abortion providers in Ohio, and this ruling ensures that abortion providers are not vulnerable to severe sanctions, fines and penalties, including potential license revocation, during this interim period as we await final rules and regulations from the Ohio Department of Health,” Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and clinic Preterm-Cleveland said in a statement.

The law specified misdemeanor charges wouldn’t be applied until after the ODH rules are in place, but civil lawsuits and professional licensure issues could still be possible if the law were to be in effect.

The lawsuit also stated that under infectious waste rules in the state, disposal of such tissue is already regulated, like other tissue from medical procedures.

The injunction granted Tuesday prevents the law from taking effect until 30 days after the rules are in place.

This article was republished with permission from Ohio Capital Journal. For more in Ohio political news, visit www.ohiocapitaljournal.com.

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