CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio law that bans virtually all abortions will remain stalled pending the state’s constitutional challenge, a judge said Friday in a ruling that will allow pregnancy terminations up to 20 weeks old. pregnancy at the moment.

Hamilton County Judge Christian Jenkins announced the permanent injunction from the bench after a day-long hearing in which courthouse guards screened onlookers and an abortion provider testified that he wore a Kevlar vest for fear that his safety was at risk.

In an impassioned speech, Jenkins squarely placed his decision in the context of US history.

He said it’s “simply wrong” to claim that a “right doesn’t exist because it’s not specifically listed in the (US) Constitution,” Jenkins said.

The law signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in April 2019 bans most abortions after the first detectable “fetal heartbeat.” Cardiac activity can be detected as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. The law had been stalled by a legal challenge, briefly went into effect when the landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade was overruled, then hung again in court.

The testimony Jenkins heard on Friday varied little from existing societal and political arguments for and against abortion.

Abortion clinic lawyers presented witnesses who stressed that abortion is a safe and necessary health care and that pregnant women in Ohio wanting the procedure were devastated when the law was briefly imposed after the United States Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case in June.

Dr. Steven Ralston, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at the University of Maryland, said the limited exceptions included in Ohio’s so-called “heartbeat” law are vague and worrisome for doctors, who risk lose their medical licenses or felony charges for misinterpretation.

He testified that he observed more danger to patients during pregnancy than during abortion.

“I’ve seen many, many more patients end up in intensive care units after having a baby compared to women who have had an abortion,” Ralston said in video testimony. “In fact, I can’t even remember a time when I saw a woman end up in a care unit after an abortion.”

State attorneys called Dr. Dennis Sullivan, a bioethics expert from Cedarville University, a private Baptist institution, who testified that human life begins at conception and that “scientifically, there is no there is no debate”.

He said the Ohio law is “consistent with good medical practice” and that he considers performing abortions under its limited exceptions – which include the life of the mother or risk of serious damage to internal organs – to be medically ethical. The law contains no exception for fetal anomalies, which Jenkins raised as a question.

He asked a series of pointed questions of Sullivan after his cross-examination, in particular an opinion he expressed in his testimony that his positions on the nature of human life and the unethical nature of termination of pregnancy in cases not involving a medical emergency should be imposed on others. .

“My question is what uniquely enables you, or uniquely someone else, to make that judgment better than the individual whose rights we are being asked to limit, whose rights we are being asked to take away. ‘autonomy?” Jenkins asked.

Sullivan responded with an example of a medical situation where an ailing woman’s autonomy could be sacrificed when she arrives at a hospital in need of life-saving care. He also pointed to Ohio laws beyond abortion that limit citizen autonomy, such as the state’s ban on assisted suicide.

Plaintiffs’ witness Dr. Steven Joffe, a faculty member in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, testified that Sullivan’s position gave the moral status of an embryo a ” almost absolute weight” on the pregnant patient.

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