Affidavits: Southwest Ohio Teenager Raped by Family Member Forced to Go to Indiana for Abortion Care

Abortion care providers are suing the state of Ohio to return abortion access to safer levels, and it's working.

click to enlarge Judge Christian Jenkins issued an order temporarily blocking enforcement of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban. - Photo: Ekaterina Bolovtsova, Pexels
Photo: Ekaterina Bolovtsova, Pexels
Judge Christian Jenkins issued an order temporarily blocking enforcement of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban.

A Hamilton County judge has temporarily restored abortion care access in Ohio until Oct. 14.

Judge Christian Jenkins issued an order Sept. 14 that temporarily blocked enforcement of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban; he then extended that order by another two weeks on Sept. 20, according to court documents. Until Oct. 14, abortion access has returned to pre-Dobbs standards, giving patients the choice to terminate their pregnancy until 20 weeks’ gestation, or 22 weeks after the first day of their last menstrual period.

The rule Jenkins had blocked was Senate Bill 23, or Ohio’s “heartbeat bill.” The law banned abortion procedures upon the detection of a "fetal heartbeat" (medical experts say that this is not an actual heartbeat, but rather sporadic electrical flutters) or around six weeks gestation, before most patients know they are pregnant.

Jenkins' block was part of Preterm Cleveland vs. Dave Yost, a lawsuit brought by various abortion providers in the state, who were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. According to the plaintiffs’ motion, the clinics are arguing the six-week ban on abortion care is unconstitutionally vague and violates protections in the state Constitution guaranteeing individual liberty and equal protection.

“Since taking effect on Jun 24, 2022, S.B. 23 has had devastating consequences on the health and well-being of Ohioans seeking fundamental reproductive health care,” the motion reads.

Abortion providers testify against S.B. 23

Affidavits filed in the lawsuit paint a painful picture of patients' experiences seeking abortions on a near-impossible timeline, including evidence that at least one young incest rape victim seeking an abortion was forced to flee the state under Ohio’s six-week ban.

Dr. Aeran Trick, operations manager of Women’s Med Center of Dayton, testifies in the affidavit that a 16-year-old patient in Southwestern Ohio “had become pregnant after being sexually assaulted by a family member.”

“The girl was unable to have an abortion in Ohio due to the presence of fetal heart tones, so she was forced to go to Indiana to have an abortion,” the affidavit reads (Indiana's abortion ban went into effect Sept. 15, but a judge on Sept. 22 issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting the ban).

Trick goes on to warn that out-of-state abortions could pose problems for local law enforcement investigating cases of rape.

“The local Ohio law enforcement agency – which was already involved at the time the clinic was contacted about the patient – had to drive to our Indianapolis clinic to retrieve the tissue for crime lab testing related to the sexual assault investigation,” Trick testifies. “I am concerned that Ohio’s ban and the need to travel increasingly far distances to obtain abortion care not only causes unimaginable harm to these young victims, but could also hamper law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute these cases in the future.”

Dr. David Burkons runs the Preterm abortion clinic in Cleveland. In an Ohio affidavit, he cites an example of a young patient who sought an abortion when a medical condition of her pregnancy started to threaten her ability to finish high school.

“[O]ne young woman, who became pregnant near the end of her senior year of high school, suffered from hyperemesis (excessive vomiting) as a result of her pregnancy. None of the medication that she had been prescribed for her condition was working, and she was so ill that she could not sit in a classroom without throwing up. The pregnancy was therefore preventing the young woman from finishing her schooling. She was hoping to end her pregnancy and obtain her high school diploma, but we had to turn her away shortly after the ban went into effect. We later learned that she ended up in the hospital on suicide watch,” Burkons testifies in the affidavit.

“We have had at least three patients threaten to commit suicide,” Burkons goes on to testify.

Stories of patients threatening to end their pregnancies through dangerous and deadly methods are found throughout the affidavit.

“A patient stated that she would attempt to terminate her pregnancy by drinking bleach. Another asked how much vitamin C she would need to terminate her pregnancy,” Dr. Sharon Liner, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio says in the affidavit.

Racing the clock to end a pregnancy

Liner says that in July, 60% of her patients were turned away after an initial ultrasound, and 16% of patients who returned for the required second visit were turned away for detection of a "fetal heartbeat."

“Still, other patients who appear at their first appointment to be eligible for an abortion in Ohio return to their second appointment after waiting the required 24 hours only to discover that fetal heart tones have appeared and that they cannot obtain care in-state,” Liner testifies.

Because Burkons is involved in the lawsuit, he tells CityBeat he was able to give some patients a heads up about the possibility of a temporary lift of the six-week ban to help them make scheduling decisions for abortions.

“People who were too far along when they called in, we said, ‘Hey we think this [court decision] is going to happen,’ but we would also tell them about going to Michigan and Pennsylvania,” Burkons tells CityBeat. “Many of those people have come back in since the ban was lifted.”

He says it’s been all-hands-on-deck at his clinics in Cleveland and Toledo since the state’s “heartbeat” laws went into effect in June.

“We started staying open seven days a week when the ban went into place,” Burkons says. “That extra day helps.”

Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, says in a Sept. 19 news release that the courts within Ohio have a responsibility to fully restore abortion care access.

“Although we celebrate this temporary win, we know that true access to abortion care has not been fully restored,” Deibel says. “And while we welcome this important first step, Planned Parenthood in Ohio will stop at nothing to ensure that Ohioans’ rights under their state constitution are upheld, including the ability to access reproductive health care.”

The temporary ban on S.B. 23 is set to expire on Oct. 14.

Follow Madeline Fening on Twitter: @Madeline_Fening

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