Ohio House leader nixes idea from some Republicans to seize courts' power over abortion laws
A draft bill from a Republican lawmaker proposed taking authority away from the courts on laws involving the new abortion amendment approved by voters with Issue 1. But the GOP leader of the House isn’t giving that idea much credence.
When asked about the bill from Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) to take authority away from the courts on abortion laws, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said he’s not giving it serious consideration.
“You know this is 'Schoolhouse Rock' type stuff. We need to make sure that we have the three branches of government and the constitution is what we abide by,” Stephens said.
His response doesn’t assure Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) that the idea is entirely dead.
“We have seen certainly leading up to primaries especially a propensity to pass legislation that is probably red meat for a base," Russo said.
Stephens said he thinks it will be up to courts to determine which abortion laws will remain on the books after voters approved Issue 1 56.6%-43.3%.
“I mean, it’s a constitutional amendment. The laws – are they constitutional or not? That’s where that is going to be," Stephens said.
Russo said it's unfortunate people will have to resort to legal action to get enforcement of the rights they established by their vote last Tuesday.
“To me it is sad that we expect citizens to have to go to court to gain access to the rights that they clearly voted for and were given on Tuesday. But I anticipate that a lot of this will play out in the courts," Russo said. "I also anticipate that there are going to be some additional extreme pieces of legislation introduced during this General Assembly that we will be fighting back against."
The plan to remove jurisdiction from the judiciary was initially suggested in an email from the far-right group Ohio Values Voters, which had campaigned against Issue 1, sometimes with disinformation. That email quoted Gross along with three other state representatives: Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Beth Lear (R-Galena) and Melanie Miller (R-Ashland). The idea also appeared in a statement posted on Nov. 9 at Ohiohouse.gov, the official government website for the House.
Another abortion ballot issue soon?
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has suggested there could be another constitutional amendment put before voters next year. But Stephens said he doesn’t favor that idea – at least not this year or next. Instead, Stephens said he wants the House to take a more thoughtful approach to what comes next, focusing on quality of life issues for families and reducing infant mortality.
That’s an idea that’s been echoed by fellow Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.
“The Bible tells us there's a time and a place for everything. Also, my 40 years of experience in politics tell me that in politics, timing is everything. And I don't think the timing is right to go back on the ballot for an issue like this. I think, as I said, the other day, I think time has to elapse,” DeWine told reporters Monday.
DeWine also downplayed any suggestion of trying to thwart jurisdiction of courts over cases involving the abortion amendment by saying, “I was a member of the General Assembly once. But just because one or two have an idea, [that] doesn't necessarily mean, I don't think the public should start thinking that that it is going to become law,” DeWine said.