(COLUMBUS, OH) — Abortion rights supporters in Ohio took the first step Tuesday in potentially getting the issue on the ballot in November in a statewide election.
Two groups — Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights — submitted language to the state Attorney General’s Office that could have residents vote on whether or not they want a constitutional amendment to protect abortion access.
Currently, abortion is legal in Ohio up until 22 weeks’ gestation, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Gov. Mike DeWine signed a law in April 2019 prohibiting abortions after cardiac activity can be detected, which is typically around the six-week mark, before many women even know they’re pregnant.
The law was blocked but temporarily went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. However, in October, a judge issued an injunction while litigation plays out.
The proposal from the two groups would amend Article I, Section 22 of Ohio’s constitution and state every individual has a right “to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one own’s pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.
The amendment would also prevent state officials from interfering, prohibiting or penalizing a person for making choices related to reproductive health.
“Ohioans are perilously close to losing access to safe, legal, comprehensive reproductive medical care,” OPRR executive director Dr. Lauren Beene said in a statement. “As we saw first-hand when Ohio’s abortion ban went into effect last year, withholding that care puts people’s lives and health at risk.”
Her statement continued, “This commonsense amendment ensures that physicians will be able to provide the care our patients need and deserve free from government interference.”
The move in Ohio comes after five states put abortion on the ballot during the 2022 midterm elections. Voters enshrined abortion rights in their state constitutions in three states — California, Michigan and Vermont — and voted against further restricting access to abortion services in two states — Kentucky and Montana.
It also comes several months after Kansas became the first state to leave abortion up to voters following the Supreme Court’s decision. Residents decisively rejected a bid in August to remove abortion protections from its state constitution.
Anti-abortion groups have vowed to fight the proposed constitutional amendment, including Ohio Right to Life.
“The language of this ballot initiative is extremely vague, making it even more dangerous than we originally believed it would be,” said Elizabeth Marbach, communication director for the group, in a statement. “They believe that they can rewrite our state Constitution to eliminate all protections for the unborn, including abortions after the point at which babies feel pain — endangering the health and wellbeing of both women and children.”
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