Ohio Supreme Court denies challenge to abortion amendment, clearing way for November vote

The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling in the latest lawsuit against the proposed abortion amendment on state’s November ballot, denying the challenge from anti-abortion activists who were attempting to keep the proposed amendment off the ballot.

The lawsuit originally filed July 28 claimed the proposed amendment did not meet state requirements. It specifically referenced a requirement that initiative petitions make reference to “any existing statute or constitutional provision that would be amended or repealed if the proposed law or constitutional amendment is adopted.”

Attorney Curt Hartman filed the complaint on behalf of former state Rep. Thomas E. Brinkman, Jr. and ex-legislative candidate Jennifer Giroux, both Republicans from Cincinnati.

“We simply called upon the court to apply well-established legal principles, including, most significantly, to give effect to the law as written, not to rewrite the law or to (legislate) from the bench,” Hartman said on Friday.

The Ohio Supreme Court consists of four Republican justices and three Democrats.

Six of the seven justices concurred with the challenge being denied, and Justice Patrick F. Fischer concurred in judgement only.

The majority opinion discusses the interpretation of the Ohio Revised Code the lawsuit is referencing, saying the petition of a proposed constitutional amendment would only have to make reference to the text of any existing constitutional provision, not any existing statute. Proposed laws, not proposed constitutional amendments, would have to reference existing statutes.

The court’s conclusion says it denies the challenge because the Ohio Revised Code “does not require a petition proposing a constitutional amendment to include the text of an existing statute.”

Fischer filed his own opinion, which concurred in judgement only, saying he also did not agree with the lawsuit’s reading of Ohio Revised Code. Fischer’s reasoning focused on “the idea that a constitutional amendment could repeal an existing statute by implication.”

In addition to citing four specific existing statutes, Giroux’s brief also says the proposed amendment would create conflicts with “innumerable” existing statutes, which Fischer points to as another way the Giroux’s claims don’t work.

“If Giroux cannot confidently say that relators have identified all the statutes that would be in conflict with the proposed constitutional provision, would-be proponents of constitutional amendments will not be able to either,” Fischer says. “...Giroux has not shown that the proposed constitutional amendment would amend or repeal any existing statute.”

Hartman criticized the court’s ruling and described the proposed amendment as having a radical scope.

“Disappointedly, as a result of the court’s decision, the proponents of the proposed constitutional amendment will continue to be able to hide from the public the radical scope of a proposal that will outright eliminate existing laws on a broad range of matters, including eliminating parental rights while suddenly elevating the role of strangers in all aspects of our children’s lives and sexual development,” Hartman said.

This week, organizers behind the proposed amendment said they were not worried about this latest court challenge.

“We knew that this was forthcoming, that anti-abortion extremists in the state were really going to throw everything they could at us,” said Dr. Sri Thakkilapati, of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights.

“That case against us, it’s pretty absurd, and it expects us to have done something that is actually impossible and has no legal precedent,” said Dr. Lauren Beene, of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights. “We don’t actually see it as a significant threat. It’s more of a distraction, waste of time and money.”

Anti-abortion groups are decrying the court’s ruling, with the group Created Equal saying it plans to run a “robust ad campaign” against this proposed amendment on the November ballot.

“Today, the Ohio Supreme Court cleared the way for an extreme abortion amendment to go on the ballot in November,” said Mark Harrington, president of Created Equal. “The so-called ‘Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety’ proposal would, if passed, enshrine painful late-term abortions permanently into our state Constitution. This is just one of the many proposals the radical left wants to enact in order to make Ohio California.”

The proposed amendment that would ensure Ohioans had access to abortion was certified for the November ballot on July 25. Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights collected more than 700,000 signatures, and of those, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose certified the petitioners submitted 495,938 total valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative. With the failure of Issue 1 on Aug. 8, this proposed amendment will need a simple majority, and not a supermajority of 60%, to pass in November.

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