COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Backers of a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution can begin collecting the more than 413,000 voter signatures required to put the issue before voters this fall, after the petition cleared another hurdle Monday.
The constitutional amendment moves to the signature-gathering phase after the Ohio Ballot Board confirmed the petition language contains only one proposed amendment.
Abortion remains legal in the state up to 20 weeks' gestation, under a judge's order issued in a lawsuit challenging a ban once cardiac activity can be detected, or around six weeks into pregnancy. The Republican attorney general has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the stay.
The fall ballot proposal would assure access to abortion until what is called viability, when the fetus could survive outside the womb. It also would protect caregivers from being punished for performing the procedure or aiding the process.
Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom are aiming to get that proposed constitutional amendment on ballots this November.
Under state law, the groups must collect 413,446 valid voter signatures — 10% of the votes in the last governor’s race — statewide, across at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Their deadline is July 5 to make the Nov. 7 ballot.
They say they are aiming to gather at least 700,000 signatures to ensure they meet the requirement.
Anti-abortion groups are vowing to fight the proposal and are already urging Ohio residents to vote against it if it makes it to the ballot.