Abortion rights supporters and foes will square off in the Ohio supreme court on Wednesday over whether the state should be allowed to ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many people even know they are pregnant.
Arguments in the case arrive just weeks before Ohio will become the only state in the United States to vote directly on abortion in 2023. On 7 November, voters will have the chance to decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution. If the Ohio supreme court rules to reinstate the state’s six-week ban, which is currently paused, it could throw the election – and abortion providers across the midwest – into chaos.
First passed in 2019, before the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade and abolished the national right to abortion, the six-week ban was put on hold. But once Roe fell last year, the ban snapped into place.
In court documents, Ohio abortion providers spoke of encountering patients who could not get cancer treatments while pregnant, people who threatened suicide if they could not get abortions, and women whose pregnancies had fetal anomalies so serious that they would never result in healthy babies.
As the ban does not have exceptions for rape or incest, multiple children also had to flee the state for abortions after being raped, according to court records. One 10-year-old rape victim’s case continues to make national headlines.
Then, last fall, a lower court in Ohio agreed to freeze the six-week ban. Now, the state’s supreme court will take up the case, with a focus on procedural questions about the limits of the Ohio government and the abortion providers’ legal authority.
Ohio is one of a handful of midwestern states that still allows abortion. If its abortion clinics are forced to go dark, the already overwhelmed abortion providers in the region and on the coasts of the US will likely see a wave of patients fleeing Ohio.
The Ohio supreme court handed anti-abortion activists a major victory this month. In late August, supporters of the referendum to add abortion rights to Ohio’s constitution sued the state’s ballot board, accusing it of adding misleading language to voters’ ballots to sway them against abortion rights.
Last week, the Ohio supreme court ruled that, although the ballot board had to rewrite a small part of the ballots, most of it could stand – including language that called a fetus an “unborn child”.
Source : The Guardian