Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 9, 2014

Ohio parents fight law over girl's forced chemo

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio couple in hiding with their daughter plan to pursue their legal arguments to make health care decisions for her even if judges allow a court-appointed guardian to withdraw from a campaign to put her through cancer treatments.

Andy and Anna Hershberger are appealing a court decision that allowed the guardian to step in. The Amish couple said they weren't objecting to the treatment for religious reasons but because they believe the chemotherapy was killing 11-year-old Sarah.

Meanwhile, the guardian says she can't contact the family and has asked to withdraw from the case.

The Hershbergers say assigning a guardian to have the final say robbed them of their constitutional rights. They're appealing under the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment that voters approved in 2011. The amendment prohibits any law from forcing Ohioans to participate in "a health care system."

Their appeal marks the first time a court has been asked to determine the scope of the amendment, which was largely thought to be a symbolic vote against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Maurice Thompson of the libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Ohio helped draft the state amendment and is now representing the Hershbergers.

"Allowing an uninterested third-party, one that has never even met the family or the child, to assert an interest in an exceedingly important parental decision will completely undermine the parent-child relationship," Thompson said in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Thompson also has filed an appeal in a state appeals court. In a filing with that court, he said that Ohio's guardianship statutes appear to let courts substitute their judgment for that of suitable parents and that the court should take a narrower view that limits such second-guessing and is consistent with constitutional safeguards of their rights.

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