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Ohio Supreme Court denies motion to temporarily block state's 'heartbeat law'

The law will remain in effect as the state's highest court reviews a lawsuit to overturn it.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday denied a motion to temporarily block the state's "heartbeat law."

Attorneys representing abortion clinics in the state filed on Wednesday an emergency stay on the law, which bans most abortions around six weeks or when the first fetal heartbeat is detected.

The law will remain in effect as the state's highest court reviews a lawsuit to overturn it.

The lawsuit argues that the law discriminates against women and “violates the Ohio constitution and significantly and irreparably harms their physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.”

“This near-total ban on abortion denies Ohioans their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution, including the right to abortion,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asked Attorney General Dave Yost, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, several county prosecutors (including Franklin County) and the State Medical Board of Ohio to abide by the pre-existing age restriction of 22 weeks from the first day of a patient’s last menstrual period and not the new law, which brings that down to six weeks when many women don’t get know they are pregnant.

Yost issued a statement regarding the lawsuit, saying that abortion is not in the Ohio Constitution.

Ohio was able to reimpose the law, which had twice been vetoed because of constitutional considerations under Roe, within hours of that case's reversal. At the request of Yost, a federal judge lifted the stay that had prevented enforcement since the law was signed in 2019.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATORS?

A person who performs an abortion in violation of the ban in Ohio could be charged with a fifth-degree felony, which carries a penalty of probation or six to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

Under the law, a doctor invoking one of the law's exceptions also must specify in writing the medical condition invoked, place a record of that decision in the patient's file and maintain it for seven years. Failing to keep proper paperwork is subject to a penalty of up to $20,000 for each instance.

Pregnant people are not held liable under the laws, and they are given the option to bring civil action for wrongful death if their pregnancy is terminated without an attempt to detect a “fetal heartbeat.”

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