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Ohio Abortion Clinics Win Battle Over Withheld Funds

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 19, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In an ongoing battle over abortion, a federal appeals court said Ohio unconstitutionally withheld funds from abortion clinics for unrelated services.

In Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Himes, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a permanent injunction against a state law that revoked funding from abortion providers. They had long received funds to fight breast cancer, sexual violence, and other problems.

When the legislature tried to cut off those funds, the courts intervened. Basically, lawmakers were mixing apples and oranges with their cuts.

Revised Code

Ohio Revised Code Section 3701.034, a prohibition on "nontherapeutic abortions," stopped funding programs that had nothing to do with abortions. It targeted preventative programs under the "Violence Against Women Act," "Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act," and others.

It specifically sought to "ensure that all funds" were not used for "nontherapeutic abortions." That meant abortion clinics would not get any money, even if they provided the preventative services.

A trial judge said the state could not do that. The Sixth Circuit agreed, rejecting Ohio's claim that the law advanced the government's interest in promoting life and preferring childbirth over abortion.

"Precluding plaintiffs from funding under the six federal preventive-health programs that have nothing to do with abortion does little to promote these interests," Judge Helene White wrote for the unanimous panel.

Continuing Battles

While the appeals court was ending the battle in one abortion case, the American Civil Liberties Union was starting another one in the same circuit.

In Kentucky, the ACLU has sued to undo a ban on "dilation and evacuation." Anti-abortion activists call the second-trimester surgery "dismemberment abortion."

Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have passed similar bans on the practice, but the courts have struck them down.

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