In this picture, taken September 24, 2015 at the Hershberger’s roadside stand — Sarah (2nd from right) with her father and four of her nine siblings.

I visited the home of Andy and Anna Hershberger to deliver the good news that the Medina County Probate Court had at long last formally terminated the guardianship it had created over their now 12-year-old daughter, Sarah.

A government hospital, Akron Children’s Hospital, sought to establish the guardianship to take Sarah from her Amish parents and seven siblings to force chemotherapy on her, even though all signs indicated that the chemotherapy itself appeared to be killing her, was certain to sterilize her, and would no doubt permanently change her life for the worse, even if she were to survive it.

The parents objected, seeking to treat Sarah’s mild form of cancer with a less invasive alternative treatment that appeared to be succeeding. It was at that time – – June of 2013 – that one of the State’s doctors testified that absent “immediate chemotherapy” Sarah would certainly be dead within six months. The court found this evidence compelling.

As the Amish community was put in touch with the 1851 Center, court battles ensued. Ultimately, those battles resulted in protecting Andy and Anna Hershberger’s fundamental constitutional right to make important health care decision for their daughter.

Two years later, having never undergone chemotherapy, Sarah couldn’t be healthier. Court records disclosed  hearing indicated the following:

  • “[Sarah] exhibits no symptoms of lymphoma”
  • “There are no reports or indications that Sarah cannot keep up with her work or her siblings on a daily basis.”
  • “Medicine is not always right, as evidenced by Sarah’s survival in the face of ‘certainty’ she would die without treatment”
  • “There is no need for Sarah’s health to be on the Court’s radar”

This case exposed the worst of the alignment between health care “experts,” Ohio’s big hospital lobby, and faulty government legislation:

  • The statute at issue, still on the books, gives Ohio judges the freedom to overrule suitable parents when they hold a differing opinion as to the “best interests of the child.”
  • Government hospitals put forth so-called experts to testify that there is only one way to treat a particular ailment, and that “one best way” must be imposed through forced health care, even over parents’ thoughtful objections.
  • Average Ohio parents lack the resources to hire an expert doctor to rebut the so-called “expert” doctor that their government is using against them (funded by their own tax dollars).
  • So long as government locks in “the one best treatment” by forcing all to comply with that protocol, medical innovation and experimentation will suffer.

Fortunately for Sarah, the Amish community is not conventional, and refused to bow to government commands. We at the 1851 Center are proud to have played a role in defending suitable Ohio parents’ moral and constitutional right to make important health care decision for their children.

But this battle continues. Ohio suffers from a cavalcade of health care “experts”, eager to deprive of us of our autonomy in light of their “certainty” that they know what is best for us.

But as this now-closed saga has proven, these experts have no skin in the game, arrogantly pontificate without fear of consequences, and are in fact frequently wrong.

Ohioans cannot afford to trust their health or their children to government expertise. We have already been swept into a system whereby we are forced to fund much of what now passes for health care in our state and nation, whether we use it or not. But the matter of whether we must be forced to use itis another matter entirely.

The Ohio General Assembly – – members of which laud health care freedom, family values, and parental choice while campaigning for office – – cannot justify maintenance of Ohio’s wide-open and highly subjective “best interests of the child” test. This test allows county judges to overrule health care, educational, and other important decisions of suitable Ohio parents. Once overruled, children can be immediately seized from their homes.

In the wake of Sarah’s case, this concept came to be known as “medical kidnapping.”

The Hershberger’s case is a lesson for all of us: we’re not as smart as we think we are. Knowledge is decentralized, and when in doubt, those closest to the situation, families (and not government experts with special designations next to their names) must make life-altering decisions.

Further, Sarah’s good health bolsters the case against forced health care that we supposedly cannot live without (literally, in this case).

It is now time for Ohio legislators to protect Ohio families from wayward judges. This can be done by reforming Ohio’s unconstitutional “best interests of the child” test.

In the meantime, Ohioans must continue to question authority.

Maurice Thompson
Executive Director
1851 Center for Constitutional Law

Watch a 2013 video on the case from Reason.tv:

reason_amish

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Official who had sought to take family’s daughter from home and force chemotherapy on her, despite parent’s earnest objections and Health Care Freedom Amendment, resigns as guardian

Family will continue to pursue alternative treatment

Columbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law accepted the Resignation as Limited Guardian of a state official attempting to, on behalf of the State and Akron Children’s Hospital, force chemotherapy on ten-year-old Sarah Hershberger.

While the resignation still requires the signature of Probate Judge Kevin Dunn, Judge Dunn is expected to approve the resignation sometime next week, effectively ending the two-month stand-off with Sarah’s parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, who, concerned that the chemotherapy was killing their daughter, sought the right to first try a less invasive alternative treatment that the hospital did not provide.

Andy and Anna, after the Court’s order, left the country to pursue an alternative treatment and prevent Sarah from being taken from them. The family reports that Sarah has responded well to the alternative treatment, the cancer is receding, and she is in excellent physical condition.

“We made it clear to our opponents that they were in for a protracted battle over fundamental principles and constitutional rights; and that on each, they were on the wrong side,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

“The Judge’s approval of this Resignation will pave the way for the family’s return home, which will allow Sarah to receive the family’s preferred treatment under the best possible conditions,” continued Thompson. “We hope that this Resignation also seals one of the darkest moments for parental rights and health care freedom in the State’s history: a court ordering a little girl to be ripped away from her loving and competent parents, and forced to submit to procedures that could kill or sterilize her, simply because her parents sought to first pursue a less invasive treatment option – – one the hospital disagreed with because it did not itself provide it.”

On November 19, the 1851 Center announced its representation of the Hershbergers, maintaining:

  • Section 21, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment passed by 67 percent of Ohio voters in 2011 prohibits the compulsion of any person “to participate in a health care system.”
  • Even before Section 21, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Ohio Constitution ensures “personal security, bodily integrity, and autonomy,” and therefore “[t]he right to refuse medical treatment” is amongst the “rights inherent in every individual.”
  • The U.S Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly provides protection to parents in the “care, custody, and control” of their children, including the right “to direct the upbringing . . . of children under their control.”
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition,” and “[t]he statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.”

The litigation began when the Hershbergers removed their daughter from Akron Children’s Hospital in July, in favor of a less invasive alternative treatment, after it appeared as though chemotherapy itself was a greater threat to her than her mild form of cancer. The Hospital then moved in court to take Sarah from the Hershbergers and force treatment in July.

The hospital’s move came only after county social services officials found the Hershbergers to be quality parents, and, and despite hospital demands, refused to take Sarah from the family. The Medina County probate court found that the Hershbergers were model parents, explaining “there is no evidence the parents are unfit or unstable,” and “there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit.”

However, the Appellate Court used an obscure Ohio statute intended to address child abuse and neglect to order Sara to be taken from the home and forced to undergo chemotherapy.

The Court made this ruling even though Sarah’s mild form of cancer is a type that can and is being treated without chemotherapy, and despite conceding that chemotherapy may well cause loss of hair, infections, infertility, cardiovascular disease, damage to internal organs, an increased risk of contracting other cancers, and even death.

The case remains pending on a jurisdictional motion before the Ohio Supreme Court and on appeal to the Ninth District; however those appeals are likely to be mooted by the Judge’s approval of the Resignation.

 

 

October 12, 2015: Medical Daily: Amish Family Wins Chemotherapy Case; Daughter No Longer Forced To Receive Leukemia Treatment

October 9, 2015: Business Insider: Court battle over Amish girl’s cancer treatment ends

October 2, 2015: Medina Gazette: Attorney: Amish girl who fled country to avoid chemo is cancer-free

March 11, 2014: Reason.com: Amish vs. the Courts: Family Speaks Out on Fleeing the U.S. to Save Daughter from Court-Mandated Chemo [VIDEO]

February 14, 2014: Medina Gazette: Judge accepts guardian’s resignation in Amish medical case

February 8, 2014: 6 ABC Action News: Ohio parents fight law over girl’s forced chemo

January 21, 2014: ABC News via Associated Press: Amish Family: Forced Chemo Order Violates Rights

January 21, 2014: Medina Gazette: Attorney: Court had no authority to force Amish girl’s cancer treatments

December 27, 2013: Daily Mail: Court was wrong to appoint guardian to force Amish girl to have chemotherapy, family says

December 26, 2013: Washington Post via Associated Press: Ohio Amish argue against guardian in chemo case

December 6, 2013: Reason.com: Amish Girl in Ohio Won’t Be Forced to Have Chemotherapy

December 3, 2013: Natural News Radio: Joni Abbott hosts with guests Donna Navarro and Hershberger family attorney Maurice Thompson

November 29, 2013: New York Daily News: Amish girl in hiding to avoid Ohio court’s ruling on her cancer treatment options

November 28, 2013: Good Morning America: Amish Girl With Leukemia, Family Flees US to Avoid Chemotherapy

State sues to take Amish family’s daughter and force chemo on her after chemo nearly kills her and family chooses different treatment option   

Columbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law  began representation of Andy and Anna Hershberger, parents of Sarah Hershberger, a ten year old Amish girl upon whom the State of Ohio, through Akron Children’s Hospital, seeks to force an unnecessary and potentially-deadly form of chemotherapy.

The litigation began when the Hershbergers removed their daughter from the Hospital in July, in favor of a less invasive alternative treatment, after it appeared as though chemotherapy itself was a greater threat to her than her mild form of cancer. The Hospital then moved in court to take Sarah from the Hershbergers and force treatment in July.

The case is now pending on a jurisdictional motion before the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Motion for Jurisdiction requests review and reversal of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Ohio which concluded that Ohio children can be taken from their parents and forced to submit to objectionable procedures “without regard to the suitability of the parents.”  The Court used an obscure Ohio statute intended to address child abuse and neglect to order Sara to be taken from the home and forced to undergo chemotherapy.

However, the United States Supreme Court has long emphasized the importance of parents’ rights to direct the upbringing of their children, alongside the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. The Ohio Constitution does the same even more vigorously. Accordingly, on each front, the 1851 Center maintains:

  • Section 21, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment passed by 67 percent of Ohio voters in 2011 prohibits the compulsion of any person “to participate in a health care system.”
  • Even before Section 21, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Ohio Constitution ensures “personal security, bodily integrity, and autonomy,” and therefore “[t]he right to refuse medical treatment” is amongst the “rights inherent in every individual.”
  • The U.S Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly provides protection to parents in the “care, custody, and control” of their children, including the right “to direct the upbringing . . . of children under their control.”
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition,” and “[t]he statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.”

The Supreme Court has also explained that there is a “fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.” Despite these clear principles, the Court for the Ninth District ruled that “upon a mere finding it is in the best interest of a minor, [the Ohio Revised Code] authorizes a probate court to supplant a parent’s rights and responsibilities through appointment of a limited guardian,” and that it may do so irrespective of whether “the court finds the child’s natural parents to be unsuitable parents.”

The Court made this ruling even though Sarah’s mild form of cancer is a type that can and is being treated without chemotherapy, and despite conceding that chemotherapy may well cause loss of hair, infections, infertility, cardiovascular disease, damage to internal organs, an increased risk of contracting other cancers, and even death.

“This case touches upon the very role of government in a free society: our Constitutions do not empower state government to rip a child from her admittedly competent parents and loving home, and force her to submit to unneeded treatment that may kill or sterilize her, when other courses of treatment are being pursued, and are working,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “This is amongst the very things that the 2011 Health Care Freedom Amendment was passed to guard against – – a state that can force health care upon you or deprive you of it can control every aspect of life.”

The hospital’s move came only after county social services officials found the Hershbergers to be quality parents, and, and despite hospital demands, refused to take Sarah from the family. The Medina County probate court found that the Hershbergers were model parents, explaining “there is no evidence the parents are unfit or unstable,” and “there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit.”

Governor’s end-run around the Ohio General Assembly violates the separation of powers, Controlling Board’s vote impermissibly contradicts General Assembly intent

Columbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law late yesterday moved in the Ohio Supreme Court, on behalf of six veteran Ohio legislators and two of Ohio’s largest pro-life organizations, to stop Ohio’s executive branch from expanding Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) Medicaid spending without legislative approval.

The legal action is filed on behalf of State Representatives Matt Lynch, Ron Young, Andy Thompson, Ron Maag, John Becker, and Ron Hood, and Cleveland Right to Life and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. These representatives and groups combine to represent nearly 1 million Ohioans.

The action asserts that in accepting jurisdiction over and passing the Governor’s proposed Medicaid spending, the Controlling Board exceeded its legal authority by acting inconsistently with the intent of the Ohio General Assembly. Specifically:

R.C. 127.17 states: “The Controlling Board shall take no action which does not carry out the legislative intent of the general assembly regarding program goals and levels of support of state agencies as expressed in the prevailing appropriation acts of the general assembly.”

The Ohio General Assembly first removed Governor Kasich’s proposed expansion of Medicaid spending from the state budget bill, and then inserted a prohibition against the expansion and spending.

Article II of the Ohio Constitution requires that the legislature, rather than administrative boards such as the Controlling Board, make major policy decisions.

In a 1980 challenge to the Controlling Board, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Controlling Board’s authority is only constitutional because it must adhere to the intentions of the General Assembly, and because of “the availability of mandamus relief” through the High Court.

“Many competent individuals make strong arguments against Medicaid Expansion on policy grounds. Success in our lawsuit, however, will not prohibit changes to Medicaid through legitimate means. Our lawsuit stands for the simple proposition that neither this Governor nor any other is a king,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

“For government to be limited, the making of transformational public policy requires the assent of the Ohio General Assembly, and cannot be done through administrative overreach. This occasion requires Ohioans to draw a line in the sand and affirm that we’d rather not bring Washington D.C.- style decision-making to Ohio.”

The Supreme Court of the United States, in its seminal decision last July in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, explained that the spending expansion transforms a state’s Medicaid program from “a program to care for the neediest among us” to “an element of a comprehensive national plan to provide universal health insurance coverage” that “dramatically increases state obligations under Medicaid,” and is “an attempt to foist an entirely new health care system upon the States.”

Read the Complaint HERE.

October 23, 2013: Dayton Business Journal: Ohio Medicaid expansion gets legal challenge

October 23, 2013: WOSU NPR 89.7: Activists, Lawmakers Bring Promised Lawsuit Over Medicaid

October 22, 2013: Cincinnati.com: SW Ohio conservatives file suit to stop Medicaid expansion

October 22, 2013: Bloomberg: Ohio Medicaid Expansion Plan Challenged in Lawsuit

October 21, 2013: New York Times: Medicaid Expansion Is Set for Ohioans

October 21, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: Medicaid-expansion opponents plan to sue Kasich administration

October 21, 2013: 60 Seconds Ohio: Maurice Thompson answers questions following Ohio expansion of Medicaid [VIDEO]

October 14, 2013: NBC 4: Controlling Board Medicaid Maneuver May Face Legal Challenge [VIDEO]

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has submitted to the United States Supreme Court a “friend of the court” brief asserting that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.  The brief highlights for the High Court Ohioans’ placement of the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment (“Issue 3”) in Ohio’s Bill of Rights, and its role in the Court’s analysis of whether the mandate withstands constitutional scrutiny.

The individual health insurance mandate, described as a “minimum essential coverage requirement” in the PPACA, attempts to require each citizen of the United States to purchase a qualifying heath insurance policy that, thus far, must cover items ranging from substance abuse and mental health coverage to maternity care.  Through requiring these coverages and others, the mandate is expected to drive up costs of health insurance premiums nationwide.

The 1851 Center’s Brief recognizes that because the mandate is not a regulation of commerce, per se, it must be “necessary and proper” for carrying into execution Congressional Commerce Clause power.  The Brief then chronicles legal principles and factual background demonstrating that, in light of efforts in Ohio and elsewhere, the mandate is not “proper,” as the Court has historically understood that term.

Specifically, the brief asserts:

  • The Constitution is animated by federalism, and because its purpose is to protect liberty, the mandate violates the “letter and spirit” of the constitution, insofar as it may displace state protection of a fundamental right.
  • Freedom from compulsion to purchase government-defined health insurance is the type of liberty states must be permitted to protect.
  • The Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments protect, from Necessary and Proper Clause power, rights specifically enumerated under state law.
  • The Necessary and Proper Clause has never before been used to displace a state constitutional provision protecting liberty.
  • The mandate forces 49 states to adhere to a policy only heretofore adopted by Massachusetts, even though that policy has been vigorously debated in each state.
  • States may protect liberty above and beyond the baseline protections afforded by the federal Constitution.

Ohio is one of three states with constitutional prohibitions against forced purchase of health care insurance.  Ten other states maintain statutory prohibitions, and 36 of the remaining 39 states have deliberately abstained from enacting individual health insurance mandates, despite debate over the policy since California first proposed such a mandate in 1939.

The Ohio Amendment, approved by 66 percent of the vote, over 2.2 million voters, added a 21st Section Ohio’s Bill of Rights “to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.”  In approving the amendments Ohioans specifically found “The freedom to not be forced to purchase government-defined private health insurance is a fundamental right.”

“One of the purposes of enacting the Health Care Freedom Amendment was not only protect Ohioans’ health care freedom from state and local government, but also to place Ohioans in the nation’s strongest position to challenge invasive elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“The 1851 Center’s Brief is a reminder, like the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, of our view, and the founders’ view, that government exists to secure rights, rather than to take from some so as to provide benefits, amenities, and comfort to others,” added Thompson.  “We thought it important to share this view with the Court, along with a reminder of the impropriety of the federal government eradicating rights that the states have essentially ‘federalized’ through the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, as it decides the extent of our liberties.”

The Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment was drafted, initiated, and defended by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

Columbus, OH – Supporters today will deliver more than 546,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State to place the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment on the November ballot.   The amendment would add a 21st Section to Ohio’s Bill of Rights “to preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.”
Read more

On March 22, 2010, the Ohio Liberty Council began the process of the placing a health care freedom constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot.

The group filed petition summary language and nearly 3,000 signatures from registered voters in 48 counties with the Ohio Attorney General, who later approved the language as truthful and accurate.

The amendment provides that:

  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system;
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance; and
  • In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

The Ohio Liberty Council is a statewide coalition of non-partisan grass roots groups in Ohio including: Central Ohio 9/12 Project, Cincinnati Tea Party, Young Americans for Liberty, Dayton Tea Party, Ohio Freedom Alliance and many more grass roots organizations. By working together, the member groups of the Ohio Liberty Council seek to achieve real results to protect and promote liberty in Ohio. More on the Ohio Liberty Council can be found at http://www.ohiolibertycouncil.org.

On April 9, 2010, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board ruled the proposed constitutional amendment should be split into two parts.

As a result, the board rejected the proposed amendment and told its sponsor, the Ohio Liberty Council, to start over.

The move placed the Ohio Liberty Council in the untenable position of restarting the amendment language approval process and collecting two sets of 402,275 signatures by June 30. The group asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block the Ballot Board’s action. “The Ohio Ballot Board got it wrong today,” said Warren Edstrom of the Ohio Liberty Council, “We will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold our amendment language and correct this error.”

On April 14, 2010 the 1851 Center Filed an Ohio Supreme Court Complaint Against the Ballot Board.

In the writ of mandamus filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, the 1851 Center asserted the Ballot Board’s actions were arbitrary and ran counter to the board’s own past precedent. The complaint contended the Ohio Liberty Council’s proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment addressed only one subject and should move forward as one constitutional amendment. Further, the Ballot Board’s ruling “effectively eviscerates the Ohio Liberty Council’s objective, and threatens to eviscerate access to the November, 2010 ballot,” the 1851 Center wrote in the complaint.

“We ask the court to review and correct the Ohio Ballot Board’s improper decision,” said Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center. “Our complaint rightfully attacks the constitutional authority of this unelected body to use its power to perform purely administrative tasks to destroy proposed constitutional amendments with which it disagrees. It does not have the constitutional authority to interfere with the Initiative rights articulated in Section 1, Article II of the Ohio Constitution.”

On April 29, 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court Ordered the Ballot Board to Certify the Amendment Language.

The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board abused their discretion and violated Ohio law in rejecting ballot language for the proposed Ohio Health Care Freedom Constitutional Amendment. The court ordered Brunner and the Ohio Ballot Board to immediately certify the language and allow the petitioners to begin collecting signatures to qualify the issue for the November ballot. A copy of the court ruling is available here.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionally-granted rights of citizens to petition their government even when the arbitrary and self-serving decisions of Secretary Brunner and the ballot board attempt to block them,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson, who also drafted the amendment. “Secretary Brunner and the ballot board tried to use their purely administrative powers to destroy a citizen-initiated amendment with which they disagreed. Thankfully, the court checked this abuse, and Ohioans will have the opportunity to put the preservation of their health care freedom to a vote.”

In the decision, the justices wrote, “the ballot board abused its discretion and clearly disregarded R.C. 3505.62.” Further, the court upheld the special protections contained in the Ohio Constitution granting citizens the right to petition government.

Further, the court wrote, “the ballot board has a clear legal duty to liberally construe the right of initiative, and as long as the citizen-initiated proposed amendment bears some reasonable relationship to a single general object or purpose, the board must certify its approval of the amendment as written without dividing it into multiple petitions.”

April 13, 2010: 1851 Center’s Complaint

April 20, 2010: 1851 Center’s Merit Brief

April 22, 2010: Motion in Opposition of Extension