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Ohioans approved abortion rights. But most restrictions remain on the books

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Ohioans approved abortion rights. But most restrictions remain on the books



While Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature hasn’t passed any abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, lawmakers aren’t willing to roll back newly unconstitutional laws

Ohioans now have the constitutional right to abortion − a monumental shift in how the state has handled reproductive rights.

But for the average patient entering an Ohio abortion clinic, nothing has changed.

Ohio abortion providers aren’t performing abortions after 22 weeks. Patients must wait 24 hours after their first visit to obtain the pills or have a procedure. A dispute over using telemedicine is playing out in court.

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“We did not get to the severe abortion restrictions that we have in Ohio overnight,” said Dr. Adarsh Krishen, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. “We’re not going to get out of that situation − even with the passage of Issue 1 − overnight. It’s going to take time and energy to be able to lift those restrictions.”

Most of that time and energy is spent in court.

Attorneys representing Ohio’s abortion clinics have sued to permanently block a ban on most abortions. The law, which has been on hold since September 2022, prohibits doctors from performing abortions after cardiac activity is detected, which is about six weeks into pregnancy.

Attorneys for the clinics say this law is indisputably unconstitutional, but Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says some parts might not be. Yost campaigned against the abortion rights measure on the ballot last year and is a likely 2026 contender for governor.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins, who is reviewing the case, will decide the law’s fate by May 20, according to court filings.

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That’s just one law. The state has other bans, regulations and hurdles that abortion providers say violate what voters approved with nearly 57% of the vote last November. Attorneys for Ohio’s abortion providers aren’t disclosing their legal strategy to dismantle those laws, but any approach will take time.

Even though those legal challenges take time, the new constitutional language has been “an absolute game-changer,” said attorney Jessie Hill who is challenging Ohio’s abortion restrictions. “Just because the changes haven’t been obvious yet, it’s still a really big deal.”

What hasn’t changed

While Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature hasn’t passed any abortion restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Republican lawmakers aren’t willing to roll back newly unconstitutional laws either.

Democratic lawmakers introduced bills to repeal various abortion bans and restrictions, but those proposals have gone nowhere.

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Some Republican lawmakers have proposed stripping judges of the power to enforce the new abortion rights amendment, but House Speaker Jason Stephens said that idea wouldn’t pass. “This is Schoolhouse Rock-type stuff. We need to make sure that we have the three branches of the government,” he added.

No comprehensive data exist on whether abortions have increased or decreased in Ohio since Issue 1 passed. The Ohio Department of Health’s report on 2023 won’t be released until the fall. Recently released numbers from #WeCount, a national reporting effort sponsored by the Society of Family Planning, don’t yet capture the months after the November vote.

Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region has seen an increase in appointments from out-of-state patients since Issue 1 passed. For example, 51% of patients seeking an abortion in January traveled from other states, interim president Suzanne Bertuleit said.

“Despite this influx of patients, Issue 1’s passage did not immediately eliminate Ohio’s current restrictions on abortion access,” Bertuleit said. “We continue to explore all our options to challenge other state restrictions with this constitutional protection in the coming months.” 

Asked about the impact of Issue 1, Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said: “We are unaware of any impact to date of the November 2023 ballot initiative.”

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Still, “the struggle to protect human life though is far from over here in Ohio,” the organization’s executive director Peter Range said. “Ohio Right to Life will continue to advocate for the preborn and will not stop working for a culture where every life gets a chance to succeed, including moms, dads and their babies.”

What has changed

While much looks the same, Krishen with Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said the constitutional amendment is already making a difference. He has seen an increase in doctors willing to work and train in Ohio because of Issue 1.

And the new protections provide a reprieve from the onslaught of new regulations and the lack of job security. “From a staff perspective, there been sort of a sigh of relief,” Krishen said.

To pass the constitutional amendment, abortion rights advocates built a roster of donors and engaged activists, said Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio. “We’re in a much different position than we were even two years ago.”

Advocates hope to deploy those resources to protect LGBTQ rights at the statehouse and elect Democratic judges to the Ohio Supreme Court that will oversee abortion challenges. They also support redistricting reform, which could make it easier to enact abortion protections in the state Legislature.

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Outside of Ohio, there is a looming fight over a national abortion ban. Former President Donald Trump supports a 16-week ban with exceptions, the New York Times reported in February. President Joe Biden has said he’s “not big on abortion” but believes the Roe v. Wade court decision “got it right,” according to the Associated Press.

A national abortion ban would undo all of the work Ohioans did to pass Issue 1, Copeland said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”

On Wednesday, a nationwide group of doctors, including those who backed Ohio’s reproductive rights amendment, formed Healthcare Workers for Reproductive Freedom to safeguard in vitro fertilization after an Alabama Supreme Court decision threatened it there. The state’s Republican governor recently signed IVF protections in response to that ruling, the Associated Press reported.

Even though Ohio voters passed constitutional protections, the battle over reproductive rights is far from over in Ohio and elsewhere, Copeland said. “It’s one thing to amend the constitution. It’s another thing to make it real.”

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 across Ohio.

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Ohio State president ‘will not compromise’ on safety as campuses face Gaza war protests

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Ohio State president ‘will not compromise’ on safety as campuses face Gaza war protests


In an end-of-the-semester email sent Monday afternoon to the campus community, Ohio State University President Ted Carter followed up on communication from over the weekend with a reminder of the university’s stances on protesting and free speech.

On Saturday, Ohio State said in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) that hate speech is “deplorable and does not align with our values, even if allowed under the First Amendment.”

The post came following a couple of campus protests in the past few days over the war in Gaza. Video clips from one of those protests were shared on an Instagram account belonging to StopAntisemitism — “a grassroots watchdog organization dedicated to exposing groups and individuals that espouse incitement towards the Jewish people and State and engage in antisemitic behaviors,” according to its website.

In his email, Carter said that college campuses “must be places where we can process these events through respectful discussion and debate.”

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“We are here together to learn from one another and hear new and different perspectives – including those with which we disagree,” he said.

Carter said he wants students, staff and faculty to stand up for what they believe in, and that Buckeyes should “dedicate ourselves to using our voices with civility and compassion.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to maintaining an environment where all members of our community feel welcome while continuing to uphold the First Amendment and the laws of our state and nation,” Carter said.

Cater added that Ohio State will “continue to prioritize safety”, including having university police officers and trained staff on-site for demonstrations, and enforcing space rules, that prohibit “intentional disruptions of university events, classes, exams or programming, including commencement.”

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Carter also warned that when protected speech becomes threatening, “Ohio State has and will always move quickly to enforce the law and university policy.”

“I will not compromise on this,” he added.

Carter asked that people consider their words wisely.

“Even if speech is protected, is it how you would talk to a member of your family or a friend?” he said. “Displays of hate speech on our campuses, even if allowed under the First Amendment, are reprehensible and do not align with our values. Ohio State must be a place where all are welcome and safe.”

Remarks come as campuses face protests nationwide

The Israel-Hamas War has sparked protests on college campuses across the country since violence broke out in October.

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More than 100 people were arrested last week for protesting Israel’s war in Gaza at Columbia University in New York City. Students were forcibly removed by police from tents pitched on lawns at the center of campus.

The Columbia students were part of student groups protesting the university’s financial investment in “corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine,” the group told USA Today.

Police in New Haven, Connecticut arrested several dozen protesters at Yale University Monday and charged them with trespassing a protest seeking for the university to divest from weapons manufacturers that supply Israel with arms.

Harvard University restricted access to Harvard Yard until Friday in anticipation of pro-Palestine student protests.

Sheridan Hendrix is a higher education reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. Sign up for Extra Credit, her education newsletter, here.

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shendrix@dispatch.com

@sheridan120





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Ohio sees most tornadoes in U.S. in 2024

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Ohio sees most tornadoes in U.S. in 2024


COLUMBUS, Ohio — According to data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Buckeye State has already seen more than 30 tornadoes in 2024. 


What You Need To Know

  • The 2024 tornado season did start earlier with the first tornadoes starting at the end of February
  • Updated radar technology is a factor in why it seems we’re seeing more tornadoes
  • Researchers can’t conclude quite yet if the early tornado season is a result of warmer winters and overall change in climate 

On average, Ohio sees about 21 tornadoes in a year. The state has already documented 35, and it’s only the beginning of the official tornado season. The Buckeye State saw several toward the end of February and through the month of March. Some might think the uptick in tornadoes is due to warmer winters and changes in our climate, but experts say it’s a combination of a few different factors. 

Tornadoes are often a result of retreating cool air and incoming warm air chasing each other with a combination of some sort of moisture. In Ohio’s case this year, the moisture is coming from the Gulf of Mexico. On average, Ohio sees about five to six tornadoes by the start of the season in April, but with a warmer winter this year we did see quite a few tornadoes early in the year. State Climatologist for Ohio Aaron Wilson said while the weather may have something to do with why we’re seeing tornadoes earlier, they’ve always been part of Ohio’s weather pattern. 

“Certainly there is a role to play with warmer winters, warmer springs, the ability for our jet stream to bring in weather patterns, to bring up more moisture from the gulf and mix and create these systems, but the weather pattern in and of itself, especially in March and April, this is not atypical for our region,” said Wilson.

Wilson said updated radar technology also plays a part. Switching from Doppler radar to dual polarization radar has allowed us to track small EF-0 and EF-1 tornadoes that might not have been picked up in the past. 

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“What that has allowed us to do is be able to detect a lot more tornadoes through radar and to detect EF1s and EF0s,” said Wilson. “These smaller, less intense tornadoes we’re actually witnessing or observed, I should say, observing more of those than maybe we did in the past before 19, certainly before 1990.”

The worst year for tornadoes in the state was 1992 when we saw 62 touch down.

While there are some years like 2005 or 2015 when we did not see much activity, it’s important to always have a plan in place and have a way to access severe weather coverage during tornado season. The season usually wraps up by around mid to late June. Click here to learn about the history of tornadoes in Ohio. 



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Ohioans say Petland sold them sick puppies. Lawmakers are trying to do something about it

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Ohioans say Petland sold them sick puppies. Lawmakers are trying to do something about it


Days after Macey Mullins took home her Jack Russell terrier, June, she noticed the puppy was urinating frequently and drinking an excessive amount of water.

Mullins got June from Petland in Lewis Center in 2020 and contacted the store with her concerns, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year in Delaware County. Petland dismissed the behavior as “normal puppy things,” saying Mullins had purchased a healthy, 3-month-old dog − one who cost nearly $5,000.

June spent the following months in and out of the veterinarian’s office for urinary tract infections and other medical care. By the end of that year, the lawsuit stated, Mullins noticed June had lost weight, seemed lethargic and wasn’t eating a lot. Veterinarians eventually diagnosed the puppy with underdeveloped kidneys and a kidney infection.

It was too late. After an unsuccessful treatment, Mullins and her veterinarians decided to euthanize June. Petland, meanwhile, refused to reimburse Mullins for June’s medical bills and expected her to continue making monthly payments on her dead puppy, according to the lawsuit.

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Petland disputed the allegations in Mullins’ case, along with two other lawsuits filed in Franklin and Ross counties. Spokeswoman Maria Smith said the company never sources pets from puppy mills and offers a warranty to help customers who face unexpected veterinary costs. Pets undergoing medical treatment aren’t available for visits or sales until they’re healthy and cleared by a state veterinarian, Smith said.

But the Chillicothe-based national chain is now at the center of a debate over how pet stores in Ohio should be regulated.

“Some of these breeders and retailers are treating these dogs like any other commodity,” said Mark Finneran, Ohio state director for the Humane Society. “When you start to take that mindset, the welfare of the animals starts to fade to the background really quickly.”

How does Ohio handle pet stores, dog breeders?

Reps. Michele Grim, D-Toledo, and Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, introduced legislation that would allow municipalities to regulate pet stores in their communities. House Bill 443 seeks to undo current law − enacted in 2016 at Petland’s behest − that strips away local control and gives sole oversight to the state of Ohio.

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The bill’s backers say Ohio allows companies like Petland to take sick animals from puppy mills and sell them for thousands of dollars to customers who believe their new dog has a good bill of health. Finneran said “unscrupulous breeders” fail to test dogs for genetic illnesses and keep them in cramped spaces while their immune systems are still developing.

“It fuels the puppy mill to pet store pipeline,” Grim said. “They’re cramped, they’re overbred. They’re in pretty filthy conditions. They’re often sold in stores like Petland. Many of them know that they’re sick or that there’s an issue with the dogs.”

The Ohio Department of Agriculture checks to make sure pet stores have each dog’s certificate of health signed by a veterinarian. A spokesperson said officials will inspect a business if they receive a complaint about the condition of animals being sold, and then report any welfare issues to local authorities.

The department also inspects high-volume dog breeders at least once a year. These facilities are supposed to be licensed under state law and must provide dogs with adequate nutrition and a clean, comfortable space. In- and out-of-state breeders are required to verify that they meet these standards when selling dogs to pet stores.

Animal welfare advocates say Ohio’s laws aren’t strong enough to crack down on puppy mills or dishonest pet stores. A 2023 report from the Humane Society highlighted 13 Ohio breeders that failed inspections due to injured dogs, small cages and unsanitary conditions, including excessive feces. Some facilities were referred for legal action or eventually came into compliance, the report states, but others have been repeat offenders.

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Smith accused the Humane Society and other groups of misleading the public about Petland to serve their own bottom line.

“Ohio currently has some of the strongest, if not the strongest set of regulations to protect animal welfare, while allowing reputable businesses to provide Ohioans with a safe choice when it comes to finding the pet that will be most suited to the individual or family,” Smith said.

‘It’s just heart-wrenching’

In response to the controversy over Petland, municipalities like Grove City tried to step in and address the issue themselves.

As Petland prepared to open a store there in 2016, the Grove City Council passed a resolution that would have prohibited the company from selling animals it obtained from high-volume breeders. Instead, Petland would need to get dogs from local animal shelters or rescue organizations.

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The move prompted lawsuits against Grove City and four councilmembers, which the company dismissed after successfully lobbying for the ban on local regulation. The sponsor of the city’s policy, Ted Berry, said he still gets calls today from people who had negative experiences with Petland.

If the proposal from Grim and Carruthers passes, Berry said he would reintroduce his resolution in a heartbeat.

“It’s just heart-wrenching,” Berry said. “People love these animals, and they’re members of their family. Come to find out many have been raised in horrible conditions.”

The bill’s fate is uncertain. It had its first hearing last week, and the chairman of that committee − Rep. Bob Peterson, R-Washington Court House − sponsored the 2016 legislation to preempt local bans. Peterson declined to comment on House Bill 443 and said committee members will decide which bills to prioritize in the coming weeks.

“I think we need to draw attention to the fact that Petland, for some reason, has a lot of power,” Grim said. “That should really trouble a lot of people.”

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Haley BeMiller 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 across Ohio.



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