EXPLAINER: Where did busy 2021 leave Ohio’s abortion laws?

By Julie Carr Smyth - Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Texas-style abortion ban. A bill outlawing the procedure statewide if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Local ordinances, stays by judges, new lawsuits. After this frenetic year of activity on the issue, it might be difficult to keep track of exactly where Ohio’s abortion laws stand as 2021 comes to a close. Here’s a look:


Yes, one. Abortion opponents in Ohio scored a major victory in April, when a federal appellate court ruled the state could begin to implement a 2018 law prohibiting abortions based on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Similar laws remain blocked in other states, but the ruling has emboldened lawmakers to attempt the restriction elsewhere.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine bookended 2021 by signing two new abortion restrictions into law, but neither is currently in effect.

A ban on the use of telemedicine for medication abortions, which DeWine signed in January, drew a constitutional challenge by Planned Parenthood, and it’s been temporarily blocked by a judge. The governor signed a second abortion bill last week. It imposes criminal penalties on doctors who fail to provide medical care in rare cases when infants are born alive after an abortion attempt. But a court challenge is expected before its effective date of March 23.


Yes, several. Among them are: a ban on most abortions after a “detectable fetal heartbeat ” (or flutter ) is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy; a law requiring fetal remains from surgical abortions to be cremated or buried; part of a ban on D&E, or dilation & evacuation, abortions, the most common method used in the second trimester; and certain restrictions on clinic operations that were tucked into Ohio’s two-year operating budgets back in 2013 and 2015.


For now, they remain in the Ohio General Assembly, whose Republican supermajorities are positioned to test some of the most far-reaching abortion restrictions in the nation next year.

Among proposals stalled since introduction are: a Texas-style abortion ban that could effectively end all abortions in the state; a so-called “trigger ban” that would outlaw all Ohio abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court lifts current constitutional protections on the procedure; and a bill requiring doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a medically disputed method for potentially “reversing” a two-step abortion process.

Such hot-button bills tend to lay quietly and then resurface suddenly during the lame-duck period, the few weeks after fall elections have been decided and before the two-year legislative session ends. It’s a volatile time because lawmakers have either secured new terms or been booted by voters. In both cases, they needn’t be concerned about political consequences.


Ultimately, only one did. Lebanon, in southwest Ohio, became the first city in the state to outlaw abortion and declare itself “a sanctuary city for the unborn” in May — a largely symbolic gesture, given it has no clinics performing the procedure.

Nearby Mason followed suit in October, but the move drew strong pushback. Opponents mobilized to defeat two council members who had supported the ban in November’s elections, and the newly constituted council repealed the ban Dec. 13.

Similar efforts fizzled in Celina in Mercer County and London in Madison County.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press