Proposed amendment ensuring abortion access clears latest hurdle

Groups now headed to collecting over 400,000 signatures to place the imitative on November ballot.

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Language for a citizen-led ballot initiative that would ensure access to abortion through a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution was approved Monday by the Ohio Ballot Board.

Moving forward, groups behind the proposed constitutional amendment, will need to collect over 400,000 valid signatures of Ohio voters by July 5 to qualify the proposed amendment for the November ballot.

Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom said they plan to collect a minimum of 700,000 signatures.

“We have been working toward this moment since June of 2022,” Dr. Marcela Azevedo, president of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights said. “We have trained hundreds of volunteers who are eager to begin circulating petitions in communities across our state because they understand the urgent need to ensure that every Ohioan has access to comprehensive reproductive health care including abortion.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office on March 2 certified the summary petition for the potential ballot issue before sending it to the Ohio Ballot Board. Groups seeking to place the citizen initiative on the November ballot filed language for the proposed amendment to the Ohio Attorney General on Feb. 21. The Ohio Ballot Board met on Monday to determine whether the proposed constitutional amendment contained only one proposed amendment, and the board ruled it was a single-issue amendment.

“Today’s decision means that Ohioans are one step closer to being able to vote for reproductive freedom on the ballot this fall, and volunteers across Ohio are ready to put in the work to place this amendment on the ballot,” said Lauren Blauvelt of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. “This initiative puts Ohioans back in charge of their own personal healthcare decisions.”

Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights estimated it will cost between $2 million to $6 million to collect signatures, which need to equal to at least 10% of the vote cast in the most recent gubernatorial election. Those signatures must come from voters in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and for each of those counties, the number must equal at least 5% of the vote cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.

The campaign promoting the initiative to voters is expected to cost between $20 million and 30 million, and organizers said they expect funding to come from both inside and outside Ohio.

“We have cleared two critical bureaucratic hurdles, and are excited to move into the next phase of our effort. This grassroots initiative — by and for the people of Ohio — will create common-sense guarantees for Ohioans’ freedom to make decisions about their own reproductive health care, including abortion. Ohioans strongly support this effort to secure reproductive freedom and keep government actors from infringing on every Ohioan’s right to make their own health care decisions,” said Kellie Copeland of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom.

Groups opposing access to abortion continued to advocate against this ballot initiative after this latest hurdle was crossed.

“This ballot initiative is another shameful attempt by the abortion lobby to capitalize off painful situations to force upon Ohio citizens abortions until birth, remove parental rights, and cancel health and safety standards for abortion mills to abide by,” stated Elizabeth Marbach, director of communications for Ohio Right to Life. “Ohioans must protect vulnerable women and pre-born children against predatory out-of-state interest groups and vote against this come November.”

It is currently unclear how, if this proposed amendment were to be added to the November ballot and later adopted by voters, how it will impact Ohio’s current parental involvement laws. If a minor is considering an abortion, Ohio law requires a parent or guardian to give permission for the abortion, although a judge may be able to excuse the individual from this requirement through a judicial bypass.

This proposed amendment would provide that every “individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including abortion. Ages of the individuals are not included in the proposed amendment.

“Planned Parenthood’s goal is to profit at the expense of human lives and parental rights through this constitutional amendment,” said SBA Pro-Life America’s state affairs director Sue Liebel. “In Ohio, along with every state where they will be bankrolling extreme abortion-on-demand proposals, Planned Parenthood has no regard for how this constitutional amendment could jeopardize women’s health and subject teenage girls to coercion. Parents won’t stand for the radical attempt to take away their right to be involved in their children’s lives, especially when it comes to major life-altering decisions that affect their health, safety and well-being.”

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