Ohio AG asks justices to lift order blocking abortion law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's attorney general has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to weigh in on the future of the state's near-ban on abortions, despite arguing less than six months ago that the same court lacked jurisdiction to determine the paused law's constitutionality.

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost appealed for the high court's intervention on Jan. 3. The filing came after Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins preliminarily blocked the law and the First District Court of Appeals denied Yost's attempt to appeal Jenkins' ruling.

Yost is now asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse that ruling, arguing that "(t)rial courts that issue such injunctions have every incentive to drag out lower-court proceedings, ensuring their orders remain in effect — and that state laws with which they disagree remain unenforceable — for as long as possible.”

He also wants justices to “grant review” to decide whether the Ohio Constitution guarantees a right to abortion and whether abortion providers, rather than women seeking abortions, may sue to enforce it.

Ironically, Preterm-Cleveland and other Ohio abortion clinics that are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's so-called heartbeat abortion ban, signed in 2019, wound up in Jenkins' court only after Yost and others fought their right to file their initial challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state argued that the parties weren't, in fact, filing the type of relief-seeking lawsuit they said they were, but instead were trying to secure a court order forbidding the state from enforcing the abortion law. The high court doesn't have that power, Yost argued.

“The court has no jurisdiction to consider that request,” he said in his motion to dismiss the case.

The motion also noted that the disputed law “does not apply to women on whom abortions are performed — it regulates only those who perform abortions on others.”

After justices denied the clinics emergency relief, the providers voluntarily dismissed that case and filed the new one now being argued in Cincinnati.

Since Yost's initial arguments, the make-up of the Ohio Supreme Court has changed. Former Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican who often cast a swing vote with Democrats, left the court Dec. 31. Justice Sharon Kennedy was elected as her replacement, and former Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, a fellow Republican, was appointed to fill the vacant seat.

Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press