Clinic Fights Abortion Riders in Ohio Budget

     CLEVELAND (CN) – An abortion provider says in court that Ohio lawmakers tacked riders limiting abortion to the state budget, a “must-pass bill in order to ensure that they would pass easily and without opposition.”
     Preterm-Cleveland Inc. sued Gov. John Kasich, the state of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Health, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, the State Medical Board and its board members, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and its director in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
     Preterm-Cleveland, described as a provider of reproductive health services, claims state lawmakers added numerous provisions to the state’s budget bill even though they have nothing to do with the budget and are aimed instead at curtailing the availability of abortions.
     For example, the “Heartbeat Provisions” allegedly “require physicians who perform abortions, including physicians at Preterm, to attempt to detect a fetal heartbeat at least 24 hours before performing an abortion,” the clinic claims in its complaint.
     “Under the Heartbeat Provisions, if there is a detectable heartbeat the pregnant woman must be informed of the heartbeat and given the option to view and/or listen to it,” the clinic adds. “In addition, the woman must be told the statistical probability of carrying the pregnancy to term.”
     Doctors who refuse to comply with the provisions could face fines, disciplinary action by the State Medical Board, or be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Repeat offenders could face fourth-degree felony charges, according to Preterm-Cleveland.
     Another set of provisions found in the budget bill called the “Written Transfer Agreement Provisions” allows hospitals to refuse patient transfers to ambulatory surgical facilities such as Preterm, according to the clinic. And a final set of provisions called “Parenting and Pregnancy Provisions” seeks to create a new government program that would provide alternatives to abortion and would be funded by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant.
     However, these provisions restrict providers of the services by requiring that providers are “not involved in or associated with any abortion activities, including providing abortion counseling or referrals, performing abortion-related medical procedures, or engaging in ‘pro-abortion’ advertising,” the clinic says.
     Preterm claims all three sets of provisions violate Ohio’s “one-subject rule,” which mandates that every piece of legislation deal with one topic exclusively.
     “The Heartbeat, Written Transfer Agreement, and Parenting and Pregnancy Provisions are not related to the bill’s primary purpose of enacting the state’s budget, nor do they address taxation and appropriations for the state,” Preterm says in its complaint. “The Parenting and Pregnancy Provisions improperly create an entirely new substantive program. These provisions were not passed on their own merits, but instead were added as riders to the Senate’s biennial budget bill.”
     Preterm wants the court to declare the provisions unconstitutional, and asked for an injunction preventing their implementation.
     The clinic is represented by Susan Scheutzow of the firm Kohrman, Jackson and Krantz in Cleveland.

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