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Columbus city attorney's office will not pursue abortion charges for patients, providers

Zach Klein is vowing his office will not prioritize the prosecution of those who seek, assist in, or provide abortions.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade last week, a growing number of prosecutors around the country promised not to pursue any criminal charges included in their state's abortion restrictions.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced Monday his office joined the bipartisan group vowing not to prioritize prosecution of those who seek, assist in or provide abortions. 

“Columbus residents have entrusted us to use our best judgment in deciding how to allocate limited resources to prosecute cases," Klein said in a statement.  "I have always prioritized prosecuting violent crime, cases of domestic violence, repeat offenders who have no regard to victims or property, and going after dangerous criminals who make our neighborhoods less safe."

Read the full statement from prosecutors here >>

The city attorney's statement comes days after a judicial stay on Ohio’s "Heartbeat" law was lifted, essentially banning abortion after six weeks in the state.

RELATED: Politicians join abortion-rights rally in front of Ohio Statehouse

RELATED: Ohio's 'Heartbeat' law now in effect after federal court lifts injunction

Abortion in Ohio following Supreme Court's decision

Political control: The Ohio Legislature is controlled by Republicans who support restricting or banning abortions, and the Republican governor backs those efforts. He is up for reelection this year against a former mayor who supports abortion rights.

Background: Before Friday's ruling, Ohio did not ban most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy; after that they’re allowed only to save a patient’s life or when their health is seriously compromised. But the state imposes a host of other restrictions, including parental consent for minors, a required ultrasound, and in-person counseling followed by a 24-hour waiting period. Abortions are prohibited for the reason of a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis. Ohio also limits the public funding of abortions to cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the patient’s life. It limits public employees’ abortion-related insurance coverage and coverage through health plans offered in the Affordable Care Act health exchange to those same scenarios. Clinics providing abortions must comply with a host of regulations.

Effect of Supreme Court ruling: A ban on most abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat became the law in Ohio hours after the ruling. Enforcement of Ohio’s 2019 “heartbeat” ban had been on hold for nearly three years under a federal court injunction. The state attorney general, Republican Dave Yost, asked for that to be dissolved because of the high court’s ruling, and U.S. Judge Michael Barrett agreed hours later.

Two trigger bills are on hold in the Legislature, but a key legislative leader has said he anticipates needing to write new legislation after the decision is reversed that more carefully reflects the actual ruling. That all but certainly would not happe until lawmakers return to the capital after the November election.

What’s next: Activists are considering how to help Ohioans get abortions elsewhere. They may also mount a statewide ballot initiative that would embed the right to an abortion in the state constitution, though that could not happen before next year. Abortion opponents are weighing strategies for imposing a statewide abortion ban.

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