Hamilton County judge reviewing latest legal challenge to Ohio's abortion law

 Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins heard arguments for and against a temporary restraining order.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins heard arguments for and against a temporary restraining order. [Bill Rinehart / WVXU]

Ohio's so-called heartbeat bill, banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, is still in effect as a Hamilton County judge considers a request for a temporary restraining order.

The ACLU of Ohio and six clinics that provide the procedure in the state filed the restraining order in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas last week.

Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said the organization withdrew its initial case challenging the state's new law from the Ohio Supreme Court, saying the plaintiffs seek more "immediate relief" from the ban while the issue of whether abortion is a protected right under the Ohio constitution also plays out in court.

Banning abortion at the point fetal cardiac activity can be detected can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before some people even know they are pregnant.

“When we filed this case [in the Ohio Supreme Court] over two months ago, the situation was already bad because the heartbeat ban had come into effect and there was chaos and misery throughout the state," Levenson said last week. "But since then, over this past two months, things have only gotten worse."

But Amanda Narog, representing the state, argued Thursday the lower court had no standing.

"The (Ohio) Supreme Court has not granted plantiffs' application for dismissal of their mandamus action involving the same parties and the same claims as are made here," Narog said in court. "That court, then, maintains its jurisdiction over the issues now advanced in this motion."

The plaintiffs argued they had the right to withdraw their request before the state Supreme Court, and don't need it to be dismissed.

Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins says he will rule on the restraining order "as soon as possible."

Ultimately, the case could end up in the Ohio Supreme Court after all. Regardless of the outcome in the lower court, Levenson expects there will be appeals.

"Ultimately, the case, regardless of who wins, will wind its way up through the appellate system in the Ohio courts and end up before the Ohio Supreme Court," Levenson said. "I think that's very likely."

—Additional reporting by Jo Ingles

Correction: A photo caption in an earlier version of this story incorrectly idenfitied Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins. It has been updated.
 
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