Abortion-rights groups file signatures to get proposed amendment on ballot

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Abortion-rights groups filed petitions Wednesday with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office in Columbus to get a proposed amendment on the November ballot that would add a right to abortion to the Ohio Constitution.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the non-partisan umbrella organization leading the effort, collected more than 700,000 signatures, and of those, approximately 413,487 need to be deemed valid signatures in order to qualify for the fall statewide vote. The Secretary of State must determine the sufficiency of the petitions by the 105th day before election day, which is July 25.

“This is a historic day for Ohio and for reproductive freedom,” said Lauren Blauvelt and Kellie Copeland of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. “Today, we take a huge step forward in the fight for abortion access and reproductive freedom for all, to ensure that Ohioans and their families can make their own health care decisions without government interference.”

The signatures required to place The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety Amendment on the 2023 general lection ballot were collected over the course of approximately 12 weeks and secured in all 88 Ohio counties.

The initiative would guarantee Ohioans’ right to abortion and protect their individualized decisions on fertility treatment, contraception, miscarriage care and continuing their own pregnancy. The amendment would also allow the state to prohibit abortions after fetal viability with exceptions in regard to patients’ health.

Anti-abortion groups reacted to the filing, saying Ohioans were misled.

“This amendment cuts parents out of life-changing decisions involving their kids’ health,” said Ohio Right to Life’s CEO Peter Range. “Not only that, but this amendment would also allow painful, late-term abortion in Ohio with no protections for the preborn. The ACLU just misled hundreds of thousands of Ohioans about their intention to push unlimited abortion and sex change surgeries for minors in our state.”

Protect Women Ohio, a statewide coalition of pro-life, anti-abortion groups similarly accused ACLU of Ohio of hiring signature collectors to lie to Ohioans about the “dangerous amendment.”

“The ACLU’s attempts to hijack Ohio’s constitution to further its own radical agenda would be pathetic if it wasn’t so dangerous,” said Protect Women Ohio press secretary Amy Natoce.

Abortion-rights groups first filed the language of the proposed amendment in March with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Ballot Board, which unanimously approved the language and then faced a lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court from anti-abortion activists. Anti-abortion activists argued the language referred to multiple amendments and not just one, but on June 1, the court ruled unanimously to uphold the Ohio Ballot Board’s decision that the proposed amendment can move forward as a single initiative.

“Over the past year, support for the amendment has grown exponentially thanks to our partners at ORF (Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom), the thousands of volunteers who gathered signatures in communities across the state, and the hundreds of thousands of people who added their names to our petitions. Today, the message we and they are sending is loud and clear: ‘let the people decide,’” said Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights co-founders Dr. Lauren Beene and Dr. Marcela Azevedo.

The threshold by which the amendment will need to reach in order to pass is also up in the air with an August special election. Issue 1, the sole question on August’s ballot, is a referendum on the process to amend the state constitution. It proposes to raise the vote threshold required to amend the constitution to 60% (up from a simple majority) and to make citizen petitioners collect signatures in all 88 Ohio counties (up from 44). It would pass with a simple majority this August.

Voters hoping to participate in the Aug. 8 election on Issue 1 need to be registered by July 10. Early voting begins July 11.

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