Ohio officials will defy the state's strict anti-abortion law

Columbus, Ohio - In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the fight for abortion rights in Ohio is moving to the cities.

Abortion rights protesters rally in Columbus, Ohio, after the US Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Abortion rights protesters rally in Columbus, Ohio, after the US Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe v. Wade.  © REUTERS

Ohio's Republican-majority state legislature passed a "Heartbeat Bill" in 2019, which criminalizes abortion after around six weeks – before most people know they are pregnant. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

The law had been blocked for three years, but hours after the Supreme Court decided to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion, a federal judge allowed the Ohio restrictions to go into effect.

While Democrats may not be able to stop state anti-abortion laws outright, many local officials, in Ohio and around the country, are fighting back by refusing to enforce the restrictions or to prosecute those who violate the law.

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Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced on Monday that his office will not issue criminal charges to people who seek or assist in abortions, Axios reported.

"Using limited criminal justice resources to prosecute personal health care decisions runs counter to my obligations to pursue justice and promote public safety," Klein said in a statement.

"We will continue to use our prosecutorial discretion to put the safety and security of Columbus residents first by allocating our resources to target the most serious crimes facing our community."

Though Klein's response is welcome, it's unclear the extent to which his positioning will matter, as he is not responsible for felony charges that will likely be filed under the new law.

Cincinnati mayor says he will fight back

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval also signaled his intention to defy the new law, tweeting, "I have asked the Administration to prioritize police resources to protect the health and safety of women and medical care providers. It is not a good use of law enforcement resources to investigate and prosecute doctors and women who are engaged in personal healthcare decisions."

"It is not my job to make it easier for the state legislature and governor to drag women back to the 50's and strip their rights," he added. "It’s my job to make that harder."

With the unprecedented attack on a constitutional liberty, elected officials at all levels will have to get creative if they want to safeguard basic rights.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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