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Groups are considering placing an abortion rights issue on the Ohio ballot

abortion opponents (front row) and abortion rights supporters (dressed as Handmaids in back) listen to testimony on an abortion bill in a committee at the Ohio Legislature
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
abortion opponents (front row) and abortion rights supporters (dressed as Handmaids in back) listen to testimony on an abortion bill in a committee at the Ohio Legislature

A coalition of advocates for legal abortion said they are in the beginning steps of a process of putting a constitutional amendment before voters, and backers of the potential ballot issue said the proposed abortion rights would reflect the will of the majority of Ohioans.

A coalition of at least eight different abortion rights groups has formed a ballot exploration committee to ultimately allow Ohio voters to put protection for abortion rights in Ohio’s constitution.

Maggie Scotece, Abortion Fund of Ohio interim executive director, said the Ohio Legislature is out of step with ordinary Ohioans when it comes to abortion.

“We know a majority of Ohioans widely support abortion access in the state of Ohio — something round about 70% to 80% of Ohioans support the right to have an abortion at some point in the state of Ohio. Yet, we have our legislature which has this extremely restrictive six-week ban in place that made nine out of 10 Ohioans have to leave the state to seek care for the time that it was in place,” Scotece said.

The coalition is called Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, and it includes the ACLU of Ohio, Abortion Fund of Ohio, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, the Ohio Women’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Pre-Term Cleveland, Pro-Choice Ohio and URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity).

The exact language for the proposed amendment is not available. Scotece said the coalition is still in the process of crafting the exact language.

“We have a wonderful group of folks who are working with lawyers to hammer out what the exact language is going to be. Obviously, that will be tested so we have language that will be supported by Ohio voters and will withstand legal tests as well,” Scotece said.

Scotece said the state’s current ban — which can take effect as early as six week’s into a pregnancy — does not have support from the majority of Ohioans.

The ban was in effect from the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade until mid October when the Hamilton County court set it aside.

In a written statement, Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis, said the state's largest anti-abortion organization, said it believes the ballot language will "be extreme."

“When left with the choice of protecting babies with a beating heart or allowing them to be killed at nine-months-old during pregnancy, Ohioans will overwhelmingly choose life,” stated Gonidakis.

Gonidakis said “the Buckeye state has repeatedly reiterated that we are undeniably pro-life, and this time will be no different. Ohio Right To Life has a presence in all 88 counties, and we are prepared to orchestrate the largest grassroots initiative in our state history, whether in 2023 or 2024.”

Ohio’s abortion ban, also known as the “heartbeat" law, allows exceptions for abortion if the mother’s life is in danger.

However, physicians and women testified in court about cases where people needed an abortion because the pregnancy threatened the life of the mother but they couldn’t get one because the law's language was too vague.

Ohio lawmakers are expected to introduce language soon to clarify the bill. In the meantime, the state is appealing the decision that put the law on hold.

This might not be the only effort to put abortion in the Ohio constitution. There are reports that another group, Ohio Physicians for Reproduction Rights, is also talking about a possible ballot issue in 2023. The organization has not responded to requests for comment.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
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