Pro-life activists in Ohio are working to prevent approval of a ballot question that would enshrine abortion in the Buckeye State’s Constitution.
Cincinnati Right to Life members Margaret DeBlase and John Giroux filed a lawsuit with the state’s highest court to prevent the proposed constitutional amendment from appearing on the ballot in November, arguing that it should be split into multiple amendments because it covers more than one issue.
As worded, the amendment offers “a laundry list of five different things: contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, abortion, and continuing one’s own pregnancy,” Curt Hartman, the Cincinnati attorney representing the pro-life petitioners in the case, told The Daily Signal.
Ohio law, Hartman says, requires that “any proposed constitutional amendment can only propose what [the law] characterize[s] as one proposal.”
DeBlase, the former executive director of Cincinnati Right to Life, and Giroux, the group’s director of community engagement and education, last month filed suit against the Ohio Ballot Board in the Ohio Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Ballot Board gave a green light to the amendment’s supporters to begin collecting the 413,000 verified signatures required by July 5 for the amendment to appear as a question on the ballot.
In a prepared statement, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights argued that the lawsuit is “meritless,” adding: “No one has ever asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse an Ohio Ballot Board’s unanimous vote affirming that an amendment comports with Ohio’s single subject rule.”
“The extremists who filed this action are attempting to circumvent the law and the Constitution in a desperate attempt to prevent the people of Ohio from voting on the reproductive freedom amendment,” the physicians group added.
Hartman says his clients are “not trying to keep [the] amendment off the ballot,” but instead are asking the state’s highest court to break the proposed amendment into multiple amendments.
According to the text, if Ohio voters approve it, the constitutional amendment would guarantee: “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on: contraception; fertility treatment; continuing one’s own pregnancy; miscarriage care; and abortion.”
The proposed amendment states that “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability,” but that “in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
“We think it is very overbroad and the [Ohio] Ballot Board never considered, never really addressed what exactly is being proposed by this, and they had no debate, no discussion,” Hartman said.
A coalition of pro-life leaders and organizations—including Ohio Right to Life, Cincinnati Right to Life, and the National Black Pro-Life Coalition—has formed a group called Protect Women Ohio to educate voters about the proposed constitutional amendment.
The group, which includes over 40 pro-life organizations, says it is working to prevent Ohio from having “one of the most extreme abortion laws in the country.”
Opponents have raised concerns over the language of the proposed amendment, noting that “every individual” includes minors, meaning a child would be able to obtain an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.
The language is broad enough to include transgender treatments such as puberty blockers and surgeries to remove breasts or genitalia, according to Protect Women Ohio.
“If passed, this dangerous initiative would abolish parental notification and consent requirements which protect minor girls from undergoing an abortion or even sex change surgery without her parents’ knowledge or involvement, the pro-life coalition says on its website.
Although the focus of the proposed amendment is on abortion, the text doesn’t include the words women, woman, girl, or female, but instead uses the word “individual” four times.
Hartman says he doesn’t not know when the Ohio Supreme Court will rule on the lawsuit, it’s likely the high court will do so in May.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and abortion on demand, in June in its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Ohio’s law banning abortions after six weeks went into effect. However, a judge put the ban on hold in October.
Current Ohio law prohibits the abortion of babies who have been in their mother’s womb for at least 22 weeks.
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a network of over 7,000 pro-life medical practitioners, also warned that “Ohio’s proposed constitutional amendment benefits the abortion industry, not women or their babies.”
“As physicians, we cannot support efforts to strip women (esp. minors & trafficking victims), pain-capable children in the womb, and others of protection against abortion’s harms,” the OB-GYN organization said on Twitter.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, accused the abortion industry of trying to “force their radical, out-of-touch agenda on Ohioans at the expense of babies and moms.”
The proposed constitutional amendment in Ohio would bring “painful late-term abortion to the state,” Dannenfelser said.
If the amendment makes it to the ballot and Ohians vote to approve it, Ohio would join California, Michigan, and Vermont, which have enshrined abortion in their state constitutions since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Mary Margaret Olohan contributed to this report.
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