Abortion rights groups collecting signatures for November ballot initiative

By: - February 21, 2023 10:21 am

Photo provided by Sam Woodring.

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.


Activists have gathered initial signatures to allow voters to choose if abortion should be legal in Ohio.

The first step will be to submit 1,000 valid signatures to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to review the petition is fair and truthful. From there it goes to the Ohio Ballot Board to confirm the petition proposes just one constitutional amendment. After that approval it goes back to the AG for that office to turn into the Ohio Secretary of State. Once that’s complete, full signature gathering can begin.

Advocates must collect signatures from 44 out of 88 counties equal to at least 5% of the total vote cast for the office of governor in that county at the last gubernatorial election. Overall, the petition must gather at least 10% of the total vote cast statewide for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.

Advocates have announced they intend to bring their initial 1,000 signatures to the AG’s office today, Tuesday.

Reproductive rights advocates like Abortion Fund Ohio’s Sam Woodring collected signatures to take the first step in putting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

“There’s never been a better time to enshrine abortion access very explicitly in Ohio’s constitution,” Woodring said.

She is part of Ohioans for Reproduction Freedom, a coalition of abortion and reproductive rights groups working towards adding a measure on a future state ballot. Her group recently joined forces with the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights.

“We’re very excited to be in this partnership and take this language and push it out together,” the advocate said.

She worries that the Ohio Supreme Court will take away access to abortion, so they are doing what six other states have already successfully accomplished.

Percentage abortion was protected in other states:

  • Kentucky — 52.3%
  • Montana — 52.5%
  • Michigan — 56.6%
  • Kansas — 59%
  • California — 66%
  • Vermont — 76.7%

“Although this, obviously, is huge for abortion access and abortion rights in particular, this language also encompasses so much more — with birth control and pregnancy and fertility,” she added.

Ohio Right to Life’s Mike Gonidakis says his team is out canvassing too — to fight against abortion access.

“We are in all 88 counties right now ready to go to ensure that our side of this great debate is heard loud and clear,” Gonidakis said.

Each of the six states that put abortion on the ballot kept the service legal, but Gonidakis says his team has learned from other states’ mistakes.

“One of the feedback items we got from [Michigan] was they waited too long to start, so we started [our work] back in 2022 to get ready for this,” he said. “It’s going to be very expensive to run 30-second commercials on TV, on the radio, print and the whole nine yards — but we’ll be prepared.”

Feeling like he has a better idea of how to approach the topic after seeing where the other states failed, he is “building the best campaign possible.”

There is a lot of uncertainty on the plan of attack, though, he said. That’s because no formal language has been provided to the public.

News 5 asked for the ballot language, but has not had it provided yet.

“We have been meeting for months, we have been fundraising, we have our executive team put together,” Gonidakis said. “We’re engaging consultants both here in Ohio and outside of Ohio to assist us with this.”

No matter how much money the anti-abortion groups spend, nothing can take away from the personal experiences people go through, Woodring said.

“No political ad campaign is going to dissuade you from voting on or following your heart on,” she said. “Those experiences are not ones that we can just wipe clean with a very convincing, sort-of, ad campaign.”

The abortion advocates need 1,000 signatures to submit to the attorney general’s office. Once they do that, their ballot language will be considered. The team will end up needing hundreds of thousands of signatures, but Woodring is confident her team can do it in less than a year.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.



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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.