Groups seek to put abortion access on the Ohio ballot

Dayton alliance plans to support measures, while Right to Life members voice opposition.

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Groups in support of abortion access have announced plans to put abortion on the ballot in Ohio as early as November 2023 to let Ohioans decide whether they want to codify that access in the state constitution.

Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights launched Protect Choice Ohio, proposing a ballot initiative to ensure access to abortion in Ohio. Another coalition, Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, issued a statement to introduce a ballot exploration committee, and this coalition was formed by the ACLU of Ohio, Abortion Fund Ohio, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Ohio Women’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Preterm-Cleveland, Pro-Choice Ohio, and URGE.

“We are very happy that groups are getting together and working on this amendment,” said Joy Schwab, a founding member of Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance. “We plan to do everything we can to support the efforts.”

A campaign timeline has not yet been announced, and ballot language has also not been announced. The groups say they are prepared to get the ballot before voters as early as November 2023.

“Ohio’s elected leaders need to stop ignoring the demands of the people they claim to represent and protect,” said Lauren Blauvelt Copelin, vice president of government affairs at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. “The people of Ohio overwhelmingly support access to abortion and deserve the fundamental right to comprehensive health care. But Ohio’s leaders continue to ignore the will of Ohioans, introduce barriers to healthcare and erode people’s abilities to exercise their democratic voices. This must end. We’ve seen when the American people are given the chance, they vote for their bodies, for their lives and for their futures, they vote to protect abortion. We know Ohioans will do the same.”

Those on the other side of this issue believe more Ohioans are against access to abortion.

“It is unfortunate that once again the pro-life community in Ohio is on defense,” said Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life and president of the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio. “However, we absolutely believe Ohio is strongly and resolutely pro-life and will uphold the right to life for our preborn Ohioans.”

The Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio and its member organizations said they were committed to combating this legislation.

“We fully expect outside forces from pro-abortion groups across the country to inundate Ohio with media ads and messaging pushing their ‘abortion on demand’ agenda to Ohio’s citizens,” said Christie.

Protect Choice Ohio and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom are also contending with House Joint Resolution 6. Under that proposal, voter-initiated amendments to the Ohio Constitution would need to pass with at least 60% support instead of a simple majority of the statewide vote.

This resolution would also need to go before Ohio voters, but it appears unlikely that this initiative will make it to the May 2023 ballot. House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, told the Associated Press Tuesday that it was “doubtful” the measure would pass in the lame-duck session. The effort would then have to be refiled when the 135th General Assembly starts in January — meaning it’s unlikely to appear on the May 2 statewide ballot. That would push it until at least Aug. 8 or to Nov. 7. If approved, General Assembly ballot initiatives go into effect immediately, while citizen-led amendments have a 30-day waiting period.

If the measure made it to the May 2023 ballot, the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom said it is prepared to defeat this resolution. Schwab said this resolution was an attempt to “stifle democracy.”

“The process is already hard enough to get something on the ballot,” Schwab said. “To make the final vote needing 60% … is a pretty high hurdle, but we will do what we need to do.”

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