Denying Clinicians’ Standing is Contrary to the Law and Ignores the Realities of Medical Practice

COLUMBUS, OH— A coalition of the country’s leading medical organizations representing hundreds of thousands of physicians dedicated to improving the health and well-being of women and families—including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM)—filed a friend of the court brief in the Supreme Court of Ohio in support of clinicians’ ability to assert claims on behalf of patients seeking abortion care. The coalition urges the Court to affirm earlier rulings by Ohio courts on the standing doctors have to challenge laws that ban patient care. As the brief notes, “Doing so is not only good law; it also supports the practice of good medicine.”

The case is Preterm-Cleveland v. Yost, a challenge to Ohio’s SB 23 which bans abortion starting at approximately six weeks of pregnancy. The coalition is represented by Democracy Forward Foundation and The Chandra Law Firm LLC. 

In the brief, the coalition provides the court with research and information regarding the closeness and significance of the patient-physician relationship, which courts have long recognized is sufficient to establish a physician’s standing to bring a challenge on behalf of her patient. Further, the brief details the numerous hindrances patients face in asserting their own rights in light of the circumstances brought by SB 23, including a lack of resources and stigma around abortion access. Likewise, failing to preserve abortion access in Ohio would “negatively impact the health and wellbeing of people in Ohio.”

“Before the courts blocked it, Ohio’s abortion ban caused tremendous harm to the people of Ohio, including those in need of abortion care, those contemplating their future reproductive decisions, and clinicians whose ability to provide patients with comprehensive care and counsel has been infringed,” said Christopher M. Zahn, MD, FACOG, interim chief executive officer of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Abortion is an essential part of reproductive health care, and ACOG strongly denounces SB 23, which tells clinicians when they can and cannot provide their patients with the health care they need.” 

“For more than five decades, our courts have recognized the ability of physicians to use the law to advocate on behalf of their patients when laws would criminalize or restrict their ability to provide necessary care,” said Democracy Forward President & CEO Skye Perryman. “One year after the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, this argument against clinicians’ standing is yet another play in the broader, coordinated effort to undermine clinicians’ ability to advocate for the health of their patients.”


On September 2, 2022, a coalition of  physicians and medical care facilities challenged Ohio’s SB 23, a law banning abortion starting at approximately six weeks of pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and WilmerHale filed this  lawsuit in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Northeast Ohio Women’s Center d/b/a Toledo Women’s Center, and Dr. Sharon Liner, an individual abortion provider, to protect the right to abortion in Ohio under the Ohio Constitution. That court blocked SB 23 as the case proceeds through the court system so that abortion continues to be lawful in most cases in Ohio up to 21 weeks and six days gestation. 

The case is on appeal at the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the court is not currently considering the merits of the underlying claims at this stage. The questions before the court now are whether these physicians and medical care facilities have standing to bring this case on behalf of their patients’ interests, and whether the Ohio appeals court was correct in its determination that the State could not appeal the preliminary injunction in order to preserve the status quo of abortion access in Ohio.