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Backers of reproductive rights amendment to Ohio’s constitution start gathering signatures

Volunteers at a petition signing event in Geauga County on first weekend petitions were available. L-R Marla Zwinggi, Erica Wachtler, Missy McGinnes
Missy McGinnes
Red Wine & Blue
Volunteers at a petition signing event in Geauga County on first weekend petitions were available. L-R Marla Zwinggi, Erica Wachtler, Missy McGinnes

Groups that want to put a proposal before voters this fall to enshrine abortion into the Ohio constitution took their petition signature gathering efforts for a “trial run" this weekend, knowing they have a short timeline to make the ballot. And they say it was a success.

Drive-through petition signing sites were set up in Geauga, Warren and Medina Counties by Red Wine & Blue, a group that focuses on engaging women in suburban swing districts in the political process, often for Democratic causes.

Its founder, Katie Paris, said she expected a lot of women of child-bearing age to take interest in the efforts. But she said she was pleasantly surprised by those who she didn’t necessarily expect to show up.

“There was a set of grandparents that showed up and they drove 40 minutes from Clermont County [to the Warren County site]. They said it was because they four daughters and six granddaughters,” Paris said. “And nothing was going to stop them from being among the first signers of this petition," Paris said.

Paris said other signers included three generations of one family and college students on spring break. And she said there were a lot of men who were enthusiastic about signing the petitions, saying it was because they have daughters.

Paris said the petition has bipartisan appeal.

“Actually we held all of our signing events this weekend in red counties that voted Republican in the last couple of election cycles. And people lined up to sign these ballot petitions,” Paris said. “In some places, we even just put up signs in the road that said, ‘Roe – sign here’ and people pulled right in," Paris said.

The group Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights also held signing events throughout the state this weekend at libraries and churches.

“We have seen so much genuine excitement. I bet not a day goes by when I am not personally contacted by someone asking, ‘What can I do’ or ‘What can I do next to help?’” the group’s Susan Shaw said.

Elizabeth Chasteen Day, organizing director of the ACLU of Ohio, said attendance at training sessions has been maxed out. She said more training sessions are planned but are filling up quickly. But she said most of the signatures collected at signing events conducted this weekend used more experienced staff members.

“We want to make sure our process doesn’t have any kinks in it,” Day said.

Day said backers of this amendment plan to hold some large signing events in the next three months and many of those locations, but not all, will be advertised in advance.

Supporters of the amendment will have a heavy lift. They need to collect nearly 414,000 valid signatures from Ohio voters by July 5 to get the measure on the November ballot.

Opponents of the proposed amendment said they’ll be busy too. They plan to talk about their opposition to the amendment in churches. And a coalition of opponents have purchased $5 million worth of ads to air statewide during the next few weeks to try to discourage Ohioans from supporting the amendment.

Many abortion opponents are also supporting an effort by majority Republican Ohio lawmakers. They have been working for months now to put an issue before voters that would allow them to vote to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments in the future by requiring a 60% threshold for passage. That resolution is scheduled for a hearing this week.

But that proposal has been criticized by Democrats and some Republicans who said it could allow a minority of voters to have power over the majority in future constitutional amendment proposals.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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