Constitutional amendment on reproductive rights in Ohio could be on the ballot in November

COLUMBUS — Two groups sent paperwork to the Ohio Attorney General Tuesday, hoping it would start the process of letting voters decide whether abortion should be legal in Ohio.

As the heartbeat law goes through the courts, some hope to protect the care that happens inside places like the Women’s Med Center in Kettering.

“Our common-sense amendment will restore the rights and protections that were destroyed when (Roe v. Wade) was overturned,” Dr. Lauren Bee, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights Executive Director said in a release.

The proposed constitutional amendment said every person has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decision — including abortion.

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“Ohioans deserve the right to safe and legal abortion care in our communities, they should not be forced to travel out-of-state to get healthcare,” Dr. Sri Thakkilapati of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom stated.

It also prohibits abortion after fetal viability, the point when it is determined a fetus can survive outside the uterus, unless it is necessary to protect the pregnant person’s life or health.

Ohio Right to Life released its own statement saying the language of the ballot initiative is vague.

“The abortion lobby is attempting to impose, on Ohioans, late-term abortion, paid for by taxpayers,” Ohio Right to Life’s Director of Communications Elizabeth Marbach stated.”

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The pro-life organization also accused those behind the initiative of rewriting the constitution to eliminate all protections for the unborn.

Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights want the issue on this year’s statewide general election ballot.

People in the Miami Valley shared their thoughts on this new initiative.

“I don’t think it’s okay for us to do a majority vote on that. I think it should be on individuals. Everyone has a different belief and we should all respect that,” Elizabeth Issacs of West Carrollton said.

“I believe that in America today, the government has too much of an impact in day-to-day decisions for day-to-day people anyway so I believe the voters should have a right to decide what to do with their bodies and what not,” Royalty Johnson of Dayton said.

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Why get it on the ballot this year and not in 2024?

Pro-choice supporters likely consider this an urgent issue, University of Dayton Political Science Professor Christopher Devine said.

He said the urgency may also have to do with potential changes to the threshold of passing constitutional amendments.

“There’s been a movement recently led by Secretary of State Frank LaRose and some in the legislature to try to require a 60% majority, not just the 50%+1 majority to pass a state constitutional amendment,” Devine said. “They can’t get that in place for November 2023 so if this gets on the ballot in the fall, that means you’ll only need over 50% to get it passed as a state constitutional amendment. If pro-choice groups were to wait another year, that bar could go up.”

Under the law, the attorney general will have up to 10 days to approve the summary of the amendment.

After certification by the Ballot Board, the Attorney General files the amendment and its summary with the Secretary of State.

At that point, the petitioners may begin the statewide signature-gathering effort. The groups must collect and submit 413,488 valid signatures by July 5, 2023.

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