COLUMBUS — Planned Parenthood’s two Ohio branches filed suit Thursday in federal court to strike down a law that would ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion: Dilation and evacuation, also known as D&E.
Such an abortion involves dilating the cervix and removing the contents of the uterus with surgical tools and suction. Bans on the D&E procedure have been signed in nine other states. However, all but two — Mississippi and West Virginia — have seen those laws at least temporarily blocked by the courts.
According to the suit, D&E is the only outpatient second-trimester abortion method available in Ohio. The alternative would be an expensive and medically riskier inpatient procedure in which the patient goes through induced labor to prematurely deliver the non-viable fetus.
Restricting it would therefore violate women’s civil right to seek care without undue burden and compromise their right to bodily autonomy, according to Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit.
The ban OK’d in December by outgoing governor John Kasich, who signed more than 20 other abortion restrictions during his time in office, refers to dilation and evacuation as “dismemberment abortion” and describes the process with an assortment of gruesome verbs: Slice, crush, cut, rip.
Any doctor who performed the procedure would be prosecuted on fourth-degree felony charges unless the pregnancy posed a danger to the woman’s life. The law includes no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
In Thursday’s suit, Planned Parenthood wrote the law represented the latest in a string of Ohio’s “burdensome, medically unnecessary restrictions on women’s access to abortion, exacerbating the burdens women already face in accessing care.”
Women seeking abortions in Ohio are required to receive an ultrasound and counseling 24 hours before the procedure, and abortion cannot be performed if Down syndrome numbers among the reasons the woman wishes to end her pregnancy.
All abortion becomes illegal at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The law signed by Kasich in 2018 was the less severe of two that crossed his desk at the same time. He vetoed the other, a “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortion in cases where a fetal heartbeat could be detected — sometimes as early as six weeks, at which point some women do not know they are pregnant.
His successor, Gov. Mike DeWine, has indicated he would support a heartbeat bill if it arrived in the governor’s office during his term. Two were introduced to Ohio's Congress on Tuesday.