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What Impact Will the Texas Abortion Decision Have on Similar Laws in Ohio?

Ohio Statehouse abortion protests

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a Texas law that required doctors performing abortions in the Lone Star state to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that required abortion clinics to meet standards for ambulatory surgical centers. 

State lawmakers have put in place restrictions on Ohio abortion clinics that are similar to those in Texas. So the leader of NARAL Pro Choice Ohio, Kellie Copeland, says the Supreme Court’s ruling against the state of Texas is a victory, as well, for clinics in Ohio that provide abortions.

“We think that Ohio politicians were put on notice,” she said.

Attorney Jennifer Branch of Gerhardstein & Branch, a law firm that has argued many court cases for abortion providers, says this ruling will affect similar laws in place in Ohio that require abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals.

“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 access to abortion,” she said.

'A punch in the gut, but ...'
But Mike Gonadakis with Ohio Right to Life doesn’t think this Texas ruling will have any bearing on Ohio’s abortion laws.

“While it was a punch in the gut to the pro life movement, we believe that Ohio’s regulatory scheme will not be impacted negatively or positively as it relates to the Texas decision,” he said.

Gonadakis says it does confirm his group’s contention that the nation’s high court is not ready to accept some more restrictive abortion measures – such as the bill that would ban an abortion when a heartbeatcould be detected or thepersonhoodplan that would ban abortion at a point an egg is fertilized. And he says the ruling shows such measures go too far.

“We need to grow up here in Ohio as it relates to the legislation that we are putting forth and do things that are responsible, do things that are common sense and that we know will survive a court challenge because what we saw in Texas sets the movement back," Gonadakis said.

New restrictions in Ohio
Gonadakis believes there is some legislation under consideration at the Statehouse right now that would be constitutional if passed. That includes the bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, which supporters say is the point at which a fetus can feel pain, and the bill that would require abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains.

“We think those two cornerstone foundational pieces of legislation can get to the governor and withstand any court challenge,” he said.

Undue burden?
But Branch says that fetal remains bill might not be constitutional at all.

“Let’s say in the fetal disposal statute that might come out, if it doubles or triples the cost of an abortion, then whatever the state is claiming is justification could be challenged under the Supreme Court’s explanation of how we prove that it would be an undue burden.

"I can see a situation of how the state could pass that law and a challenge could be made to it that would be pretty simple,” Branch said.

What happens now with the transfer agreement laws that are already in place? It’s not exactly clear.

Emmalee Kalmbach, a spokeswoman for Gov. John Kasichand a former employee of Ohio Right to Life, says Ohio’s laws have been in place since the mid '90’s. She says it’s premature to know if this decision will impact Ohio. And she says the governor’s legal team is studying the situation.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.