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Groups Question Ohio Supreme Court Justice's Objectivity

The Ohio Supreme Court soon will hear a case that could determine the fate of Toledo's last clinic that performs abortions. (Analogue Kid/Wikimedia Commons)
The Ohio Supreme Court soon will hear a case that could determine the fate of Toledo's last clinic that performs abortions. (Analogue Kid/Wikimedia Commons)
May 17, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The objectivity of an Ohio Supreme Court justice is being called into question.

A complaint filed Tuesday by several organizations asked the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to investigate Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy. The request alleged that Kennedy violated Ohio's Code of Judicial Conduct when she spoke at a fundraiser for Greater Toledo Right to Life, just days after the court decided to hear a case that could determine the fate of Toledo's last clinic where abortions are performed.

Sandy Theis, executive director of Progress Ohio, contended that it's a serious matter, since reproductive rights in Ohio have been under attack for decades.

"There have been 18 new restrictions passed since (Gov.) John Kasich has taken office, and they've closed half the abortion clinics, and they put the head of Ohio Right to Life - who is not a doctor - on the state medical board," Theis said. "The entire apparatus of government in Ohio is stacked against women, and we can't let the judicial branch become compromised as well."

During the fundraiser, Kennedy did not discuss abortion or any pending court cases and since has denied that she acted inappropriately.

The Northwest Ohio Indivisible Coalition is among the groups that signed the complaint. Its co-founder, Janet Ritter, said she thinks the issue of abortion needs to stay out of the political forum.

"It's become a political platform to divide voters," she said. "It's sad to think that since 1973, we are still, still struggling with this. Why do we still have to battle this every political season?"

Other groups in the complaint include Progress Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women chapter, and the Physicians Action Network. Theis said the support of the medical community is important.

"Doctors know that these restrictions are not helpful to women, and in some cases they hurt women," she said. "The medical community is tired of politicians who want to practice medicine, and they're stepping forward and they're saying, 'Look, this is hurting women. We have to cut it out.' "

The complaint also called into question Kennedy's responses on a 2014 survey for Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, in which she affirmed she agrees with that group's positions.

The complaint is online at amazonaws.com.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH