Home News Ohio Moves Closer to Ballot Issue That Would Protect Abortion Rights

Ohio Moves Closer to Ballot Issue That Would Protect Abortion Rights

Ohio Moves Closer to Ballot Issue That Would Protect Abortion Rights

Ohio moved one step closer to becoming the next big test case in the nation’s fight over abortion, after supporters of a measure that would ask voters to establish a right to abortion in the state’s Constitution this week said they had filed more than enough signatures to put it on the ballot in November.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights said on Wednesday that it had collected roughly 710,000 signatures across all of the state’s 88 counties over the last 12 weeks. Under state law, the coalition needed 413,466 to qualify for the ballot. State election officials now have until July 25 to verify the signatures.

Supporters of abortion rights are turning to ballot measures in the aftermath of the ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which for 50 years had guaranteed a right to abortion in the federal Constitution. They are betting on polls showing that public opinion increasingly supports some right to abortion, and opposes the bans and stricter laws that conservative states have enacted since the court’s decision.

Voters in six states, including conservative ones such as Kentucky and Kansas, voted to protect or establish a right to abortion in their constitutions in last year’s elections, and abortion rights advocates in about 10 other states are considering similar plans.

But the November ballot measure is not the only one that will carry big stakes for the future of abortion in Ohio. Republicans who oppose abortion rights — and who control the state’s General Assembly — have proposed another measure that would make it harder to pass ballot measures.

Republican leaders in the Legislature have placed a measure on the primary ballot in August that would raise the threshold required to pass a ballot measure to 60 percent, from a simple majority. While August elections are typically low-turnout and tend to favor those sponsoring the measures, Republicans in Kansas who attempted to strike a right to abortion from the state’s Constitution last August failed, with an unexpectedly high proportion of Kansas residents turning out to reject it. The August measure in Ohio will not specifically mention abortion, however, and it’s not clear that abortion rights advocates will be able to energize their supporters as effectively as their counterparts in Kansas did last year.

An Ohio law passed in 2019 banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant — and that law took effect after Roe was overturned. A county court judge placed the ban on hold pending trial, saying that the Ohio Constitution provided a “fundamental right to abortion,” in part because it granted equal protection and benefit to women. That leaves abortion legal up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The ballot measure would amend the Constitution to add “the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety Amendment,” which in many ways resembles the protections established by Roe.

The amendment would establish a right to abortion but allow it to be prohibited after the fetus is viable outside the womb, generally around 23 or 24 weeks. It would allow laws limiting abortion before viability so long as those laws used the “least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.”


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