Ohio amendment ensuring access to abortion certified for November ballot

Marijuana petitioners to get 10 extra days to meet sufficient valid signatures

A proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would ensure access to abortion will come before voters on Nov. 7 after Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Tuesday certified the petitioners met the requirements to have the citizen-led initiative placed on the election ballot.

Tuesday was the deadline for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to certify the petitions for this statewide initiative, along with a proposed statute from another citizen-led initiative regarding recreational marijuana, which did not receive enough valid signatures. Petitioners have another 10 days to come up with an additional 679 valid signatures for the marijuana issue.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the umbrella organization leading the effort, collected more than 700,000 signatures, and of those, approximately 413,487 needed to be deemed valid signatures in order to qualify for the fall statewide vote. Petitioners also needed valid signatures from 5% of voters who participated in the last governor’s race in 44 counties.

LaRose certified the petitioners submitted 495,938 total valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative and that signatures from 55 counties met or exceeded the 5% needed.

“These results, recorded on the enclosed document, indicate that petitioners filed a sufficient number of valid signatures and satisfied the requirements,” LaRose said in his letter to the petitioners.

“Every person deserves respect, dignity, and the right to make reproductive health care decisions, including those related to their own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion free from government interference,” Lauren Blauvelt and Dr. Lauren Beene, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights executive committee members, said in a statement. “Now that the petition drive is complete, we’re eager to continue the campaign to enshrine those rights in Ohio’s Constitution and ensure that Ohioans will never again be subject to draconian reproductive health care policies imposed by extremists.”

This certification was a win for women, Ohio Democrats said.

“Today was an important victory for Ohio women, and Ohio Democrats were proud to play our part,” said Elizabeth Walters, Ohio Democratic Party chair. “Out-of-touch politicians are relentlessly attacking women’s fundamental rights, inserting themselves into women’s personal, medical decisions and laying the groundwork for a total abortion ban in Ohio. In the days and weeks ahead, we look forward to telling these corrupt politicians: we won’t go back.”

The petitioners pulled in under half a million signatures from this effort, and anti-abortion advocates said this pointed to low support for it.

“After spending millions of dollars to collect signatures, Planned Parenthood couldn’t even get enough signatures to hit the half million mark,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “We live in a state of 11.9 million people, and they could only turn in less than 500,000 signatures. That’s a clear signal that Ohioans do not support this dangerous amendment that allows for late term abortion and gets rid of parental consent.”

They’re lucky to have qualified, Gonidakis said, who is also continuing to promote Issue 1 in the August election. Issue 1 would require future amendments to garner 60% approval from Ohioans in order to pass, instead of a simple majority.

“We’re going to be successful in August,” Gonidakis said. “Everywhere I go, whether it be in a small town in western Ohio or here in Franklin County in an urban community, when you explain to people what’s at stake, they will vote yes on Issue 1, and it’s our job to spend the last two weeks communicating that message.”

“Extreme, out-of-state abortion forces are trying to purchase a part of the Ohio Constitution,” said Mark Harrington, president of Created Equal, an anti-abortion group. “Unable to win in the legislature, extremists are attempting to enshrine painful, late-term abortions in the Ohio Constitution. Ohioans will reject this takeover and defeat the abortion ballot measure.”

Tuesday’s certification was a big step for Ohio, supporters of the proposed amendment said.

“Young people, Black women and reproductive justice advocates have been on the frontlines in Ohio, organizing and fighting back against extremist lawmakers who attempt to take away not only abortion access but self-determination and freedom, from all of us,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, a nonprofit focused on reproductive issues. This ballot initiative is the product of our collective hard work and commitment to protecting basic human rights for all Ohioans.”

This initiative is also part of an ongoing effort to reverse abortion bans, she said.

“This is a major step for Ohio, but it’s bigger than just one state: This is about reversing the tide of abortion bans and securing a better future for us all. Abortion is a winning issue, period. Voters have shown this in state after state. URGE helped secure abortion access in Kansas in 2022, and in 2023, we plan to do the same in Ohio,” McGuire said.

The secretary of state will now forward the amendment to the Ohio Ballot Board, which must draft the language describing the amendment that will appear on the general election ballot.

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