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A close look at proposed constitutional amendment in Ohio to allow abortion and reproductive freedom

Democrats announce constitutional amendment plan at Ohio Statehouse on May 17, 2022
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Democrats announce constitutional amendment plan at Ohio Statehouse on May 17, 2022

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to make abortion legal in Ohio have filed a resolution that would first allow Ohio lawmakers to take that action. The Democratic House and Senate members who are backing the plan announced their intention in mid-May.

Democratic Senator Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said the resolution has one goal.

“What we have tried to do with this piece of legislation is leave the decision making up to the pregnant person,” Antonio said.

Antonio said it doesn't actually codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that allows abortion nationwide. She said this proposed amendment takes scientific developments since that time into consideration. Back in 1973, the age of viability was around 24 weeks into a pregnancy but science has shrunk that window since the Roe ruling.

"If there are new technologies and viability changes, it accounts for all of that by being very general in nature."

Antonio said this proposed constitutional amendment would allow abortion after the age of viability in cases where the health or life of the pregnant person is at risk. She said abortions early into a pregnancy would be allowed. And Antonio explained that's consistent with the views of most Ohioans who want reproductive rights to be an option, especially in earlier phases of a pregnancy.

Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, said it goes too far.

“Any legal scholar could look at this and drive a truck through these exceptions," Baer said.

Baer said the exception for maternal mental health would allow someone in a late stage of pregnancy to suddenly decide they don't want to continue to term and get an abortion at that point. He said most Ohioans agree that should not happen.

This proposed constitutional resolution would need approval from 3/5 of the Ohio House and Senate members to be put on the ballot. And it's likely too late for that to happen this year. Ohio lawmakers are now on summer break and aren’t set to return until November. And even if they were here and could do it, the Ohio House and Senate has been passing legislation to limit and ban many abortions so it would be a heavy lift to get this passed. But Antonio said she hopes voters will ask candidates where they stand on the proposal as they consider who to vote for this fall. And she said citizens can also work to put the measure on the statewide ballot next year though doing that would require supporters to do lot of work. They would have to gather almost a half million valid signatures to put the issue on before voters.

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