Ohio voters did not want to eliminate waiting period, AG says

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has asked a Common Pleas Court in Franklin County to uphold Ohio laws that require those seeking abortions to wait 24 hours after their first in-person appointment

Ohioans did not vote on Issue 1 to eliminate a 24-hour waiting period before abortions, Attorney General Dave Yost’s office argues in a new filing.

Yost, a Republican who opposed Issue 1, asked a Franklin County Common Pleas Court to uphold Ohio laws that require those seeking abortions to wait 24 hours after their first in-person appointment. Under these rules, doctors must also inform patients about the medical risks of abortions and the likely gestational age of the embryo or fetus.

Ohio abortion providers say these rules are unnecessary and insulting to patients who have already carefully considered their decisions. Abortion clinics have sued to block them under new constitutional language protecting access to abortion, which was approved by 57% of voters in November.

But Yost’s office says voters wanted to return Ohio’s abortion policy to a time before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, sending decisions on abortion access to state legislatures and courts. At that time, these laws requiring a waiting period and other notices had already been declared constitutional.

“The amendment was intended to restore the pre-Dobbs statutory regime – one that authorized and enforced Ohio’s personal waiting period and informed consent provisions,” Assistant Attorney General Amanda Narog wrote in a filing Wednesday. “Voters were told mainly by the dominant and successful voices that the amendment would restore the status quo.”

Narog also wrote that Ohio’s informed consent requirement “rather than conflicts with the amendment, because it ensures that any woman who exercises her right to an abortion does so voluntarily.”

Attorney Jessie Hill, who represents Ohio abortion clinics in the lawsuit, said voters knew what they were approving: access to abortion without medically unnecessary restrictions.

“The attorney general is acting as if the amendment does not say what it says and that the people of Ohio did not pass the law they passed,” Hill said.

The state also claims that abortion clinics do not have the legal standing to sue and that they will not face any immediate harm from these laws. Opponents of these laws waited five months after the November vote to file a lawsuit.

Judge David Young, a Democrat of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, is reviewing the case and will decide whether the laws should be temporarily blocked.

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations in Ohio.