Ohio judge set to rule on state’s near-total ban on abortions

A judge in Ohio could rule as soon as Monday in a case that could overthrow the state’s 2019 abortion ban.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins is considering a case brought by a group of Ohio abortion clinics which seeks to invalidate the state’s law banning abortion in most cases after roughly six weeks of pregnancy.

A ballot measure approved by voters last year already rendered much of that law moot, but parts remain in place including reporting requirements and a 24-hour waiting period, which can add stress and an increased financial burden for those in need of abortion care.

Ohio’s rebuke of the conservative right on the issue of abortion was seen as a warning shot across the Republican party’s bow last year; the state has gone red in the past three presidential elections and has a Republican governor and majorities in its state legislature.

Despite this, voters clearly moved to enshrine reproductive rights into Ohio’s state constitution after Roe v Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2022.

The state’s abortion ban was a so-called “heartbeat” ban which prohibited the practice as soon as cardiac activity was detected in the womb. In most cases, this occurs around six weeks into the pregnancy, before as many as a third of all women know they are pregnant.

Supporters of the Ohio abortion rights ballot measure rally in 2023 ahead of the vote (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Supporters of the Ohio abortion rights ballot measure rally in 2023 ahead of the vote (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The battle over reproductive rights is set to take centre stage on the national level this year as President Joe Biden and Democrats campaign on the issue in swing states across the country, with polling showing it to be an issue where Mr Biden enjoys a clear advantage with voters over his opponent. Donald Trump and Republicans meanwhile continue to be mired in disarray on the issue of abortion rights, with conservatives pushing the party to endorse legislation in Congress to ban abortion at the federal level.

Mr Trump and others have opposed those calls, saying it should be left up to the states and recognising the electoral disadvantage they would suffer if the part at large came out in support of a national ban.

Mr Biden was in Florida in April to give a speech on the issue of reproductive rights, where he bashed Mr Trump for “ripping away” protections for women seeking abortions.

“Let's be real clear: There's one person responsible for this nightmare, and he's acknowledged it and he brags about it: Donald Trump,” he told his audience.

His vice president, Kamala Harris, also recently became the first sitting vice president (or president) to make an appearance at an abortion clinic in March when she visited a Planned Parenthood facility in Minnesota.

The Associated Press contributed to this report