After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Rabbi Yael Dadoun of The Temple-Tifereth Israel said she fielded telephone calls from people who were concerned.

“The news around Roe v. Wade I think was shocking to a lot of people’s systems and was very scary for men and women alike,” Dadoun told the Cleveland Jewish News Aug. 2. “I think, at this time, our community really just needs to feel supported and know that we are there for them to have a conversation around what’s happening,”

To that end, Dadoun has invited Dr. David Burkons, Ian N. Friedman and Jessie Hill to join her for a panel discussion on the Dobbs decision and its immediate legal and medical implications, as well as Jewish perspectives on reproductive rights. The talk will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood.

Friedman, founding partner of Friedman & Nemececk in Cleveland and an adjunct professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, said he and other lawyers in his criminal defense practice also immediately began taking calls about the criminal and legal implications of abortion law in Ohio.

On the Monday following the decision, which had been announced on a Friday, Friedman and his team began a deep dive on research to understand what the changing legal landscape might look like.

The questions were concrete and pointed, and in some cases, required immediate answers.

“Issues that were literally born overnight,” Friedman told the CJN Aug. 2. “If I drive to another state, am I susceptible to criminal prosecution in Ohio? If I drive somebody out of state, am I complicit? If I donate money to an organization that performs abortions, am I aiding and abetting?”

Friedman said the law is literally being written in the moment.

“The law’s going to be made right now,” he said, adding that he hopes to be able to educate people about their rights and the law in the panel discussion.

Gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. David Burkons owns three of Ohio’s six abortion clinics. His clinics are still providing medical abortions, but at about half the volume they did a month ago after Ohio Senate Bill 23, commonly called the Fetal Heartbeat Law, went into effect June 24. That law bans abortions after about the sixth week of pregnancy when fetal cardiac activity can be detected.

“We probably are down quite a bit less than other clinics, just because our practice model is to get people in very, very early,” Burkons told the CJN Aug. 1.

He also said he is looking to open a practice in or near Sharon, Pa., near the Ohio border, adding that abortion clinics in Pittsburgh are “totally swamped” with patients from both Ohio and West Virginia.

Hill, associate dean for research and faculty development and Judge Ben C. Green professor of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, is the lead lawyer in the challenge to Senate Bill 23.

Hill was also the lead lawyer in a 2019 federal challenge to Senate Bill 23. That challenge placed an injunction on the Ohio law, based on the rights guaranteed under Roe. After the Dobbs decision, a federal judge lifted the injunction.

Now, Hill is the lead lawyer seeking a challenge to the law before the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of abortion clinics, including Burkons’, as well as a doctor, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The challenge would reinstate Ohio’s previous law regarding abortion, which allowed the medical or surgical procedure up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“Ultimately, what we’re asking for is for the Supreme Court to recognize and to rule that the Ohio Constitution protects the right to terminate a pregnancy regardless of the fact that the federal U.S. Constitution has been decided not to protect the right to terminate a pregnancy,” Hill told the CJN Aug. 2. “We have our own constitution as a state, the Ohio Constitution. It says slightly different things than the U.S. Constitution. The Ohio Supreme Court has the power to interpret that constitution and to interpret it, independently of the U.S. Constitution, and independently of what the U.S. Supreme Court says. And so we are arguing that Ohioans have the right to abortion and the right to reproductive privacy. You know, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant that right.”

Hill said she hopes the court will decide quickly.

“I can tell you every day that this law has been in effect has been absolute chaos and tragedy in Ohio,” she said.

The Ohio Supreme Court denied an immediate request for an emergency stay, that would have blocked Senate Bill 23 from going into effect.

“I have to admit that the denial of the stay was not a good sign,” Hill said. “The law had only been in effect for five days. But you know, we already were able to include information about patients who have been turned away and just really horrific impacts of the law.”

The Religious Action Network, the National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland and more than two dozen rabbis, three cantors and Temple Beth Or in Dayton have signed onto an amicus brief supporting the challenge of Senate Bill 23, along with a Christian group and several ministers.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine together filed an amicus brief as well, as has the city of Cleveland. In addition, the cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton together filed an amicus brief, supporting the challenge.

Hill said the amicus brief from religious groups is particularly important.

“I think it’s so important to put that argument in front of the court, and to put it out there to the public too, that ‘religious people’ are not all on one side of this issue.”

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