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Citing ‘insurmountable’ barrier to abortion, federal judge blocks Ohio 'heartbeat law'


The judge says the law 'will have the effect of preventing nearly all abortions in Ohio'

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Earlier this week, a federal judge blocked Ohio's pro-life "heartbeat law" from taking effect as planned.

Ohio's law bans abortion at six weeks, the point where an unborn child's heartbeat can be detected. A federal judge appointed by former President George W. Bush ruled Wednesday that that restriction ran up against Supreme Court precedent set in case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, under which states cannot impose an "undue burden" on abortion access.

"This Court concludes that [the 'heartbeat law'] places an 'undue burden' on a woman's right to choose a pre-viability abortion, and, under Casey, Plaintiffs are certain to succeed on the merits of their claim," Judge Michael R. Barrett ruled Wednesday.

Barrett also wrote that the law "will have the effect of preventing nearly all abortions in Ohio" and therefore, "One could characterize the obstacle Ohio women will face as not merely 'substantial,' but, rather, 'insurmountable.'"

The American Civil Liberties Union, which joined with abortion provider Planned Parenthood's legal efforts on the case, celebrated Wednesday's court order.

"Abortion bans like this one have been blocked across the country by numerous courts," Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement. "Today the Court has upheld the clear law: women in Ohio (and across the nation) have the constitutional right to make this deeply personal decision about their own bodies without interference from the State."

"Today's ruling keeps abortion legal for all Ohioans, but we know the fight does not stop there," abortion clinic Preterm-Cleveland executive director Chrisse France added. "We will continue to fight for all women and people who can become pregnant to have access to abortion care."

Barrett's ruling went on to say, however, that plaintiffs' arguments that Ohio "is making a deliberate effort to overturn Roe [v. Wade] and established constitutional precedent" would have to "be made to a higher court."

And that's just the kind of fight that the Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) was expecting.

"Governor DeWine has long believed that this issue would be decided by the United States Supreme Court," spokesman Dan Tierney told Reuters in an email after Wednesday's court order.

After similar bills faced two vetoes from former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, DeWine signed the heartbeat bill into law in April. Ohio is one of several states that have passed sweeping pro-life laws this year — much to the chagrin and dismay of abortion proponents nationwide.

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