Campaign launches to put abortion access on Ohio ballot in 2023
The amendment could go before voters as early as November of next year.
Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, which describes itself as “a patient-focused advocacy group of more than 1,400 doctors,” is setting its sights on the Nov. 7, 2023 ballot for a constitutional amendment to protect abortion access. The group launched “Protect Choice Ohio” on Monday.
Another coalition of abortion rights advocates − called “Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom” − hasn’t set a specific date for its constitutional amendment effort. That group includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Abortion Fund Ohio, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Ohio Women’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Preterm-Cleveland, Pro-Choice Ohio and URGE, an acronym for Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity.
That coalition could back a ballot issue as soon as November 2023 but is also considering November 2024.
“The organizations are working as expeditiously and strategically as possible to identify the proper timing, while also realizing this is a precious opportunity that must be thoughtfully executed,” according to an Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom news release.
About 68% of likely Ohio voters said they oppose a ban on abortion after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. And 84% supported exceptions for victims of rape or incest, according to a September USA TODAY Network Ohio/Suffolk University poll.
Voters in other states where abortion has been on the ballot recently have sided with protecting access to abortion.
But Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said Ohio will be different. “Ohio is a Midwest state with Midwest values. We are confident that we will reject any liberal ideology being placed in Ohio’s constitution.”
What would the constitutional amendment do?
Neither group outlined what their constitutional amendment would say. Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights President Dr. Marcela Azevedo outlined broad goals, including:
- Ensure that Ohioans have access to “safe, legal, equitable, and comprehensive reproductive medical care” including abortion.
- Preserve the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.
- Enable all people to make reproductive healthcare decisions free from government and political interference.
The ballot efforts come after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Within hours, Ohio had imposed a 2019 ban on doctors performing abortions after cardiac activity is detected. That law effectively ended most abortions in Ohio.
In mid-September, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins blocked that law, effectively restoring abortion access in Ohio to pre-Roe levels. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, has appealed the ruling.
“There is no fundamental right to abortion,” Ohio Solicitor General Ben Flowers wrote in a Monday filing. He argued Ohio’s abortion restrictions did not violate the state constitution or infringe upon women’s rights to equal protection.
Ohio Republicans try to make it harder to amend the Constitution
Meanwhile, Ohio Republicans are considering ways to restrict abortion access in the state. They are not planning to ban abortion from the point of conception by the end of 2022.
Another effort, spearheaded by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and GOP Rep. Brian Stewart, would increase the threshold needed to amend the state Constitution from just over 50% to 60%.
Advocates for abortion rights see this as a direct attack on their effort to amend the Ohio Constitution.
“We will stand up against attacks on our right to vote and amend our state constitution,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio. “We will ensure abortion access for ourselves and future generations by enshrining reproductive freedom in the Ohio Constitution.”
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