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Long Court Battle Ahead for ACLU’s Lawsuit Challenging Ohio’s New Abortion Laws

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 5:52 PM

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A lawsuit has been filed to challenge three controversial abortion related amendments that were passed as part of the state’s new two year budget. Critics of the new laws say they weren’t given adequate public hearings and as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, the suit contends the laws violate Ohio’s constitution.

An attorney working for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pre-term, a Cleveland area clinic that provides abortions.  Lawyer Susan Scheutzow says the new abortion laws violate the Ohio constitution’s single subject rule.

“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.  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 come as a surprise to Mike Gonidakis, President of Ohio Right to Life.  Nonetheless, he says he’s disappointed by the lawsuit.

“Very sad, though, because the one that would have given money to poor pregnant women now may be in jeopardy, being postponed.  We hope not but it could be postponed.  It’s rather sad that it’s come to this.”

Gonidakis says this lawsuit contradicts itself.  On one hand, he says it claims the budget should be for appropriating funds and on the other hand, backers of this suit say they don’t like how the funds are being appropriated. What we are seeing here is the ACLU and the abortion industry trying to make a political statement through litigation,” Gonidakis says.  “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.”

An attorney who has followed Statehouse politics for many years now believes there’s a good chance the single subject argument won’t sway a court.  Mike Weaver has worked as a strategist for mostly Republican candidates.

“We’ve seen people raise challenges to that over the years.  They are rarely successful,” he says, because the courts have been reluctant to accept the challenge to the single subject rule.

“I think the courts have what’s called the political question doctrine which means 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.”

Attorney Susan Scheutzow says there have been cases in the past, like involving Cleveland’s charter school program, that have been ruled in violation of the single subject rule.  She thinks this lawsuit has a good chance to be successful. Still, she’s expecting 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 legislative process but she’s hoping they will get thorough consideration by the courts.

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