Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

State Appeals Hold on ‘Heartbeat Act’

Image of an empty courtroom in the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

The Supreme Court of Ohio will consider an appeal of a trial court's preliminary injunction on a 2019 abortion law.

Image of an empty courtroom in the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

The Supreme Court of Ohio will consider an appeal of a trial court's preliminary injunction on a 2019 abortion law.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 ruled there is no federal constitutional right to abortion, states have been left to decide the issue. More than a dozen have made abortion illegal in nearly every circumstance, while the procedure is legal in 25 states up to at least 22 weeks. In several states, bans or restrictions on abortion are blocked while courts review the laws. Ohio is among them.

In Ohio, legislation to add restrictions to abortion was passed in April 2019. Based on earlier U.S. Supreme Court decisions, a federal district court temporarily stopped the Ohio law from being enforced as the court considered the legal challenge. When the U.S. Supreme Court issued Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, the federal court removed the injunction and the law went into effect.

The law, called the “Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act,” makes it illegal for a health care provider to perform or induce an abortion if the embryo or fetus has cardiac activity. A health care provider who violates the law faces up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,500. Doctors can have their license to practice medicine limited, revoked, or suspended and be fined up to $20,000 for each violation by the State Medical Board of Ohio. Clinics can be sued in a civil case and lose their licenses as ambulatory surgical facilities.

Health Care Providers Sue in State Court
After the federal court lifted its injunction, a doctor and several clinics filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County, asking in part for a preliminary injunction from the state court to prevent the enforcement of the Ohio law while it was reviewed. The health care providers sued the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Department of Health, and the state medical board. In October 2022, after a hearing, the state court issued the injunction.

On behalf of the state, the attorney general appealed the trial court decision to the First District Court of Appeals. The appeals court ruled the injunction wasn’t a final order and couldn’t yet be appealed. The First District determined that the state must wait for the trial court to issue a final judgment.

The attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which will hear arguments next week about whether the health care providers have standing to file the lawsuit and whether the preliminary injunction could be appealed. The attorney general raised a claim whether abortion is constitutional under the Ohio Constitution, but the Court didn’t agree to review that issue.

Attorney General Argues Law Should Take Effect
The attorney general argues it has no meaningful legal remedy if the appeal of the preliminary injunction can’t be heard now. The preliminary injunction injures the state by blocking the operation of laws enacted by legislators , who are elected by the people, the attorney general maintains. The state also contends that the injunction undermines the legislative goal to protect unborn humans because abortions can’t be reversed.

On the issue of standing, the attorney general asserts that the health care providers could not file this lawsuit because the law doesn’t impact any of their rights. The attorney general doesn’t agree that the health care providers have met the test for suing as a third party on behalf of women.

Eighteen states submitted a joint amicus brief in support of the attorney general’s position on standing. They maintain that the U.S. Supreme Court’s longtime practice of giving abortion providers standing in these types of cases has been a “mistake.” Also supporting the state’s view on standing in a joint amicus brief are several local, student, state, and national organizations that oppose abortion.

Health Care Providers Counter Appeal Not Yet Allowed
The health care providers respond that once the trial court reaches a final judgment, the attorney general can appeal. Because the state can appeal at that point, it hasn’t been denied a meaningful remedy, the health care providers argue. They also contend that the state’s concern for protecting fetal life doesn’t allow it to appeal the preliminary injunction. To do so, the state must show it was harmed by the injunction, but it hasn’t offered any concrete, specific evidence of harm, the health care providers assert.

The health care providers argue they have the right to file this lawsuit. Doctors face possible criminal, civil, and professional penalties, and clinics are subject to liability as well, they note. They maintain they also have met all requirements for establishing third-party standing. They point out that the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs ruled on the case merits, which demonstrate that the abortion providers who sued had standing.

Three national medical associations filed a joint amicus brief supporting the positions of the health care providers. The groups explain that they submit the brief to share “the perspective and expertise of the medical community.” A northern Ohio medical association filed an amicus brief backing the health care providers, arguing that the state legislature “dictate[s]” in this law how doctors are to practice medicine and treat patients. A national social work organization, whose members counsel clients on pregnancy, reproductive health, parenthood, and adoption, submitted an amicus brief in support of the health care providers.

Watch Oral Arguments Online
The Supreme Court will hear three cases on Sept. 26 and two others, including Pre-term Cleveland v. State, on Sept. 27. Oral arguments begin each day at 9 a.m. The arguments will be streamed live online at and broadcast live on the Ohio Channel, where they are archived.

Detailed case previews from the Office of Public Information are available by clicking on each case name.

Tuesday, September 26
Consecutive Sentences
In State v. Jones, a Cleveland man received consecutive sentences for drug trafficking and having a weapon illegally and sentences for other offenses that were imposed concurrently. To impose consecutive sentences in Ohio, a trial court must identify certain factors mandated by state law. The man maintains that the trial court didn’t make the proper findings for imposing consecutive sentences and the appellate court failed to conduct a meaningful and independent review of the sentences. The prosecutor responds that the appeals court reviewed the record and correctly analyzed the issue.

Self-Defense Claims
In June 2021, two men got into an argument at a Springfield gas station, and one of them fired a gun at the other but wasn’t hit. The shooter claimed the other man had a gun and was threatening him, and that he shot to get the attacker to “back off.” At his trial for attempted murder and felonious assault, the judge first considered, but ultimately declined, to instruct the jurors that they could consider the shooter’s claim of self-defense. In State v. Wilson, the Court will consider whether a person claiming to fire a warning shot with no intent of injuring or killing an attacker can claim self-defense or if the person is simply arguing they are not guilty of a crime.

Adult Charges for Juveniles
In April 2020, a Hamilton County juvenile shot and killed a woman while attempting to shoot her son. He soon sold the gun. Prosecutors sought murder and felonious assault charges in juvenile court and to have the case transferred to adult court. In adult court, the youth faced a third charge of tampering with evidence. In State v. Williams, the Court will consider whether the juvenile can be charged with an added crime of tampering with evidence if the prosecution does not first bring the charge in juvenile court.

Wednesday, September 27
Remote Testimony
In February 2022, a father went on trial in Logan County for alleged sex offenses against his adopted daughter. The daughter reported the offenses in 2010. The father’s former boss was to testify, but he no longer lived in Ohio. The trial court allowed him to testify from Minnesota by video. The boss explained that he had hearing limitations and was using a speech-to-text captioning software. In State v. Carter, the father, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison, argues that the video testimony violated his right to confront witnesses in person. He also raised concerns about the captioning software. The prosecutor counters that the court approved the remote testimony because of COVID-19 numbers and weather.