Ohio judge says he will extend pause of Ohio’s ‘heartbeat’ abortion law for another two weeks

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: Thousands of abortion-rights activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the Court announced a ruling in the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization case on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Court's decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health overturns the landmark 50-year-old Roe v Wade case and erases a federal right to an abortion. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Within a week after Judge Christian A. Jenkins issued a temporary restraining order to block Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, the Hamilton County judge announced Monday that he plans to issue another one. According to Cleveland.com, Jenkins told lawyers in a Monday hearing that he plans to issue a second 14-day temporary restraining order blocking the law. The first restraining order paused the law for 14 days in order to allow Jenkins to have enough time to review arguments in the case.

With another order in place, Ohio abortion clinics will be able to provide abortions up until 22 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period at least through Oct. 12, Cleveland.com reported. Per the original order, the pause would have ended on Oct. 7.

The law in question, SB 23, was signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in April 2019. It bans abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks—a time period within which most women don’t even know they are pregnant.

This isn’t the first time the law is being blocked; prior to the end of Roe v. Wade, the law was blocked in federal court for over three years.

Since the end of the Roe era, legislators across the country including those in Ohio have been attempting to pass stricter abortion policies. Hours after Roe v. Wade was overturned by SCOTUS, Ohio officials allowed for SB 23, a “trigger ban,” to become effective with no exceptions for rape or incest.

As a result, abortion activists and providers sued in state court and filed suit in state Supreme Court to ensure abortions remained accessible. While the state’s Supreme Court refused to act on the case, a refiling in Hamilton County on Sept. 3 allowed advocates a chance to plead their case.

Jenkins, the judge presiding over the case, has indicated his plans to rule in favor of abortion advocates, agreeing with their arguments that equal-protection guarantees contained in Ohio’s constitution cover the right to obtain an abortion.

When he initially heard their case, he granted the restraining order, allowing abortions after six weeks to be legal until Sept. 28. His decision to extend the order now allows for abortions to continue into late October.

According to Cleveland.com, in his decision Jenkins referenced a 1993 decision from a state appellate court that found the Ohio Constitution confers greater abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution, including a broad scope of the meaning of “liberty.” He added that an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, which voters adopted in 2011 in response to Obamacare, also offers rights that could protect abortion.

While the case is likely to end up before the Ohio Supreme Court, the block—though temporary—is still a win

“We’re relieved that this judge has taken action to stop the suffering that has been happening as a result of Gov. DeWine and Dave Yost rushing to court to enforce the six-week abortion ban,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio.

“And we urge people who need care to contact clinics right away, and voters who want to see an end to this suffering to vote for pro-choice candidates.”

Of course, despite Jenkins referencing prior cases and law, some conservatives have to deny the legitimacy of his verdict.

“I’ve read the Ohio Constitution like I’ve read the U.S. Constitution, and nowhere in there is there a guaranteed right to abortion,” said Mike Gonidakis, a top anti-abortion advocate who leads Ohio Right to Life.

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