Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio announced a lawsuit challenging three controversial abortion-related amendments passed in June as part of the massive state budget bill. The suit alleges all three amendments violate the Ohio Constitution's "single subject" rule and are therefore unconstitutional.
"To put it simply, none of these amendments have any place in the state budget bill," said Susan Scheutzow, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the law firm of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. "This massive bill is not intended to deal with new policy; the single subject of the budget should be the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations."
One of the amendments in question bans public hospitals from making transfer agreements with abortion clinics. Another requires clinics to follow a government script when dealing with patients and to present those patients with evidence of a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion or face criminal charges. A third amendment creates a new state "parenting and pregnancy" program that siphons state money directly into private organizations that are forbidden from mentioning abortion services.
"The first two amendments have nothing at all to do with budget appropriations," said Jessie Hill, ACLU cooperating attorney and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. "The third is also unconstitutional because it creates and funds an entirely new government program, something that requires stand-alone legislation."
"This litigation is as much about good government as it is about reproductive justice," added ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. "You don't have to be pro-choice to understand that there are rules, and those rules must be followed."
The suit was filed on behalf of Preterm, a Cleveland women's health clinic that provides contraception, birth control, pregnancy counseling, and abortion services.
"Everyday we see families facing deeply personal decisions, and I can tell you that they don't need nor want politicians in the middle of those decisions," said Preterm Executive Director Chrisse France. "I can also tell you that these amendments have nothing to do with helping those families."
"In the end, laws aimed at shutting down clinics by any means necessary will neither prevent abortions, nor protect women's health," added France. "All they do is waste time and resources while making civil debate that much more difficult."