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Yost agrees six-week abortion ban unconstitutional, other provisions not

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(The Center Square) – A Hamilton County judge now must decide on parts of Ohio’s heartbeat law after Attorney General Dave Yost agreed the law banning nearly all abortions is unconstitutional.

In court filings, Yost said Ohio’s 2019 law that banned most abortions in the state was unconstitutional after voters guaranteed the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution in November.

However, he believes other aspects of the law should be allowed to remain.

Senate Bill 23 “encompasses many abortion-related regulations in Ohio, including the requirement that abortion providers check for a fetal heartbeat before performing the procedure, reporting obligations for abortion providers and provisions related to informed consent,” Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle told The Center Square in an email. “The state respects the will of the people regarding the six-week abortion ban, but the state likewise is obligated to protect provisions of SB23, as passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, that the constitutional amendment does not address, thus preventing overreach.”

Yost’s filing came three days after the ACLU, ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed for final judgment in a lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers. They challenged several Ohio laws that force patients to wait a minimum of 24 hours after receiving state-mandated information in person before having an abortion.

The groups say the laws violate the state’s right to reproductive freedom, which voters passed in November.

Ohio’s law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, along with mandating in-person meetings with patients and care providers and a waiting period.

The groups say Ohio law does not mandate a waiting period or separate in-person visits to a provider to receive state-mandated information for any other medical procedure.

“These laws are now in clear violation of the newly amended Ohio Constitution, which enshrines the explicit and fundamental right to abortion and forbids the state from burdening, prohibiting, penalizing, and interfering with access to abortion, and discriminating against abortion patients and providers,” said Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio. “Whatever a patient’s reasons, accessing abortion is essential to their autonomy, dignity, and ability to care for themselves and their families.”

Ohio voters easily approved a constitutional amendment in November that enshrines the right to have an abortion, with more than 57% of voters approving.

Ohio became the seventh state to protect abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The amendment, which took effect Dec. 7, guarantees an individual the right to make reproductive decisions and carry out those decisions, including those about birth control, fertility treatments, miscarriage and abortion.

The state still has the power to regulate abortion after fetal viability, with exceptions for the life or health of the mother based on a determination by a physician.

In late November, Democrats introduced legislation to remove Ohio abortion restrictions.

The bill would repeal current laws related to abortion, such as mandatory 24-hour waiting periods, transfer agreements and targeted restrictions on abortion provider laws that require abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers.

It would also add protections to patients and providers, including data privacy and nondiscrimination, along with civil and criminal protections for evidence-based care.

The bill has had no movement in the Ohio House.

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