Anti-abortion activists accuse Ohio board of ‘abuse of discretion’

Lawsuit claims proposed amendment on reproductive rights is ‘logrolling’ topics.

Anti-abortion activists continue to accuse the Ohio Ballot Board of improperly approving the language for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution, petitions for which are currently being circulated, in a new brief filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.

Filings on behalf of relators from Cincinnati Right to Life accuse Ohio Ballot Board members of engaging “in an abuse of discretion” when they authorized a proposed amendment regarding reproductive rights, which would ensure access to abortion, as only containing one proposed amendment and not multiple topics.

In March, the Ohio Ballot Board gave the approval needed for groups in favor of access to abortion to start collecting signatures for an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would ensure that access. The Ohio Ballot Board met March 13 to determine whether the proposed constitutional amendment contained only one proposed amendment, and the board ruled it was a single-issue amendment.

Margaret DeBlase and John Giroux, the relators in this case who are from Cincinnati Right to Life and being represented by the law firm of Curt C. Hartman, said the Ohio Ballot Board “members acted in clear disregard” of the law by giving approval for this proposed amendment. The relators are resident electors who say they have a standing to bring actions to enforce public duties in election matters, and they are looking to the Ohio Supreme Court to force the Ohio Ballot Board to vacate its previous decision.

Anti-abortion activists contend that abortion has been recognized as being “inherently different” and a “unique act,” saying it is separate from reproductive decisions. The Ohio Ballot Board “failed to even consider the particular language of the proposal and what actually falls (or may fall) within the ambit of being ‘one’s own reproductive decisions,’” relators said in this recent merit brief they filed Friday.

In a brief filed in support of the Cincinnati Right to Life relators, additional groups opposing abortion reiterated similar claims that the proposed amendment involves multiple topics. They say the proposed amendment “embodies impermissible ‘logrolling’ by joining together for a single vote non-controversial subjects that voters may feel compelled to support with the controversial issue of abortion in effort by the Amendment’s proponents to generate a coalition of support and obfuscate the matters at issue.” The anti-abortion groups went on to say the proposed amendment “is so broad as to potentially create a constitutional right to a varied array of questionable practices.”

The Ohio Ballot Board itself also responded to the relators initial lawsuit in a response filed by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and assistant attorneys general. The relators “fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” and the relators “do not have a clear legal right to the relief sought,” said the Ohio Ballot Board’s response. The Ohio Ballot Board also asked the court to dismiss the relators’ claims.

Yost is similarly involved in another lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court relating to abortion as he has been seeking to appeal a preliminary injunction approved by a Hamilton County judge that put a pause on Ohio’s Heartbeat Law. The Ohio Supreme Court on March 14 announced it will hear the state’s appeal of an appellate court’s decision on a preliminary injunction on Ohio’s abortion law. That case is still ongoing.

In the Ohio Ballot Board lawsuit, additional filings are expected this week.

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