Groups partner to put Ohio abortion access on fall ballot

Credit: Barbara Perenic

Credit: Barbara Perenic

Groups aiming to change the Ohio Constitution to ensure access to abortion have joined together with plans to file language with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office with the goal of getting that initiative on the November 2023 ballot.

Together, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom on Thursday announced they have partnered and drafted the language of the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment with plans to file it with the Ohio Attorney General soon.

“We are united in purpose and by the belief that placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2023 is both a moral imperative and offers the best prospects for success,” said Dr. Lauren Beene, executive director of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, which launched Protect Choice Ohio, its grassroots network. “The lives and health of Ohioans have been at risk since Roe was overturned. That is why we must seize the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that doctors and patients, rather than politicians and the government, are empowered to make decisions about pregnancy, birth control, and abortion.”

The language of the amendment will be similar to a constitutional amendment approved by Michigan voters last November and would give Ohioans access to abortion, the groups said. Subsequent to reviews and approvals by the Attorney General and the Ohio Ballot Board, volunteers will begin circulating petitions across Ohio to obtain the required valid signatures of registered voters to place the issue on the ballot.

Michigan’s ballot initiative created a state constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” which was defined in the initiative as the “right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility.”

The amendment also allows the state of Michigan to regulate abortion after fetal viability, but not prohibit it if the procedure is medically needed to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health. The law also forbids the state from prosecuting individuals for actions covered by this amendment.

“The people of Ohio overwhelmingly support abortion access and keeping the government out of our personal lives,” said Lauren Blauvelt from Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. Blauvelt went on to say, “This campaign puts the power back in the hands of the people of Ohio, so everyone has the freedom to prevent, continue, or end a pregnancy should they decide.”

“Organizations from across the political spectrum have come together uniting advocates and physicians to ensure this makes it on the ballot in 2023,” said Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights President Dr. Marcela Azevedo.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said they have been working on a statewide campaign in response to the groups Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom.

“We have been working for months to put together the largest grassroots advocacy campaign in our state’s history. We know—and knew—the Planned Parenthoods of the world were going to do to the ballot at some point in the next several years, and it appears as if it’s going to be 2023, so we needed to get ready,” Gonidakis said. He said they have plans to launch their campaign, including announcing its name and its coordinators in all 88 counties in Ohio, soon.

“We will be ready and prepared to have this debate in the public square,” Gonidakis said. “Ohioans, regardless of where they fall on the issue of life and abortion, do not support late term abortions, period. They simply want that in our constitution, and it will fail.”

Gonidakis said their campaign is not for their own ballot initiative, though, saying they already have the support of sitting legislators in the state assembly.

“We don’t need to do a ballot initiative because we have pro-life members in the legislature, the governor’s office, and the Ohio Supreme Court. That’s were policies should be made on these types of issues, not having outside interests come into Ohio and try to buy their way into our state’s constitution,” Gonidakis said. “We are creating a campaign to defeat Planned Parenthood.”

Additional groups similarly spoke out against the groups proposing this constitutional amendment.

“The organizations driving this initiative have a gruesome record of showing little regard for the health and safety of women and unborn children. For decades, they have spent millions of dollars fighting to protect their big business, profiting off of painful late-term abortions,” said Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer.

Baer’s reference to “late-term abortions” generally refers to abortions obtained at or after 21 weeks, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the phrase late-term abortion has “no clinical or medical significance.”

Nearly all abortions in 2020 took place early in gestation, according to the CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System, which says 93.1% of abortions were performed at or below 13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (5.8%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (0.9%) were performed at or over 21 weeks’ gestation.

“Ohioans cannot be silenced and allow our state Constitution to be manipulated. We must stand up together against these radical liberal groups and their out-of-state funders to protect women and children,” Baer said.

The campaign finance filings for Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office show over $380,000 in financial contributions. The vast majority of the contributions were from individuals and entities in Ohio.

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