COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio abortion providers again sued Friday to block a state law requiring that fetal remains from surgical abortions be cremated or buried.
Clinics, through their lawyers at ACLU of Ohio, asked the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court for a second stay, arguing the new law imposes a funeral ritual on every patient, regardless of religious or spiritual belief. The clinics continue to characterize the law as an unconstitutional hurdle to women’s legal right to an abortion.
“Compliance with SB27 will have a devastating impact on the ability of patients to have autonomy over their own lives," ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson said in a statement.
A judge previously had stayed the law in April, on grounds a lack of state rules made compliance impossible. But those rules were finalized Dec. 30 and are now set to take effect Jan. 9. Under the terms of the court order, abortion providers would have until Feb. 8 to come into compliance.
The measure replaces an earlier state law that required aborted fetuses to be disposed of “in a humane manner,” but did not define “humane.” Remains from what are known as surgical, or procedural, abortions fell under existing rules for handling infectious waste, meaning they could be disposed of with material from other medical procedures.
Republican Gov. Ohio Mike DeWine signed the fetal tissue measure into law in December 2020.
As state attorney general, he investigated allegations regarding Planned Parenthood’s treatment of fetal remains in 2015. His report found no evidence of the illegal disposal that was alleged, but it criticized the organization for disposing of fetal remains in landfills. Planned Parenthood called the finding “inflammatory.”
Iris E. Harvey, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, one of the plaintiffs, said the the law is “based on misinformation and propaganda used to stigmatize abortion providers and the people we serve.”
She said in a statement that allowing it to take effect would delay “vital and time-sensitive health care” until later in pregnancy for some and force others to to carry pregnancies to term against their will.
At the time of its passage, abortion foes called the new law a “vital piece of pro-life legislation” that assured human life was treated with dignity.
Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press