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Abortion Providers Sue Ohio Over Fetal Remains Disposal Law

This Feb, 25, 2020 file photo show the Preterm building, the busiest abortion clinic in Ohio, in Cleveland. Officials in Texas and Ohio are taking steps aimed at banning most abortions during this phase of the coronavirus outbreak.
Tony Dejak
/
Associated Press
This Feb, 25, 2020 file photo show the Preterm building, the busiest abortion clinic in Ohio, in Cleveland. Officials in Texas and Ohio are taking steps aimed at banning most abortions during this phase of the coronavirus outbreak.

Abortion clinics are suing the state of Ohio to block a recent law requiring that fetal remains from surgical abortions be cremated or buried.

Clinics, through their lawyers at the ACLU of Ohio, argue in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court that a lack of rules makes complying with the law “impossible.”

Set to take effect April 6, SB27 replaces an earlier state law that required aborted fetuses to be disposed of “in a humane manner,” but did not define “humane.” It also requires that women having an abortion must fill out a form designating how to dispose of the remains.

According to the lawsuit, the Ohio Department of Health has yet to prescribe the forms required under the law before any procedural abortion, and won't be able to have them in place by April 6. As a result, the the clinics will be forced to turn away patients seeking procedural abortions before that date, because of the concern of being penalized "despite the impossibility of complying with SB27 when it takes effect."

"Effectively banning all procedural abortions would be in direct violation of Plaintiffs’ patients’ fundamental constitutional right to have an abortion and would cause those patients irreparable harm," the lawsuit reads.

Tuesday's lawsuit, which names the Ohio Department of Health, director Stephanie McCloud and other officials as defendants, seeks a temporary restraining order preventing Ohio clinics from being penalized. The clinics also want SB27 thrown out as unconstitutional under the Ohio Constitution.

SB27 passed the Ohio legislature without a single Democratic vote before Gov. Mike DeWine signed it into law at the end of last year.

Abortion opponents said the new language assures human dignity, while abortion-rights groups say it’s intended as a hurdle to getting an abortion. Among the groups suing the state are Planned Parenthood, Preterm-Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio Women's Center.

"Despite the fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and there are vast and numerous public health tasks before the Ohio Department of Health, the State passed this frivolous and medically unnecessary law," the ACLU wrote in a statement. "We simply want reassurance that we won’t be punished for our inability to comply with a directive that doesn’t exist."

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar fetal disposal law in Indiana.