Ohio Ballot Board moves abortion amendment initiative forward

Supporters now set sights on collecting enough signatures by July to put the measure to Ohio voters in November

By: - March 14, 2023 4:55 am

Dr. Amy Burkett, OB/GYN and member of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, speaks to media Monday following the Ohio Ballot Board’s vote to verify the language of a proposed constitutional amendment on abortion. Photo: Susan Tebben, OCJ

The Ohio Ballot Board verified Monday that a proposed amendment for the November ballot to cement abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution can now move forward to the full signature-gathering stage.

In a short Monday meeting, the board, composed of Secretary of State Frank LaRose; Republican state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, Democratic state Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, Democratic state Rep. Elliot Forhan, and Bill Morgan, voted unanimously that the proposed ballot initiative only involved one constitutional issue.

The board only heard from two people outside of the board after LaRose insisted that content be kept away from the merits of the amendment or opinions about abortion itself.

John Giroux, of Cincinnati Right to Life, still took time to try to discredit the amendment itself, called it “intentionally unjust and misleading.”

Attorney Don McTigue spoke on behalf of the groups proposing the amendment, choosing not to dive into the legal aspects of the amendment, instead saying the “common purpose of the amendment” was individuals having control of one’s own reproductive decisions.

Gavarone acknowledged that the purpose of the Ballot Board business was “procedural,” but still input her opinion before the unanimous vote was recorded.

COLUMBUS, OH — FEBRUARY 22: State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, during the Ohio Senate session, February 22, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

“I am horrified at the thought of this amendment, I mean, the right to kill babies being put into Ohio’s constitution,” Gavarone said.

Now that the proposal has been certified by the Ohio Attorney General and verified by the Ohio Ballot Board, groups attempting to get the measure on the ballot can move forward with collecting the more than 400,000 valid signatures needed to officially get the measure to statewide voters.

Laura Strietmann, executive director for Cincinnati Right to Life, said pro-life organizations throughout the state have joined together as well, with a full strategy to fight against the measure.

“We are unified in protecting women in Ohio, in stopping this bill from becoming law,” Strietmann said after the vote.

Abortion rights groups say they are prepared to go forward with field planning, volunteers and petition circulators as early as the end of this week, according to Jordyn Close, deputy director for the Ohio Women’s Alliance and board president for Abortion Fund of Ohio.

The organizations are planning to hit the ground running to get more than enough signatures in a short amount of time. The deadline to submit signatures so the proposal can appear on the November ballot is July.

Part of the plan to bring support to the measure includes informing voters about the true aims of the constitutional amendment on which they would be voting. Claims have already been made by opposition groups that the amendment would bar all abortions, including for baby’s who have reached full term, something supporters of the amendment say won’t happen.

“We are not interested in doing full-term abortion,” said Dr. Amy Burkett, board-certified OB/GYN in northeast Ohio, and member of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights. “This is about protecting the rights to reproductive health care including abortion, up to viability.”

Viability, Burkett said, should be determined by the physician and patient “based on the technology that is available at the time.”

Amendment supporters aren’t shying away from their pro-abortion stance, despite the trend toward using “pro-choice” as a way of including all options.

“When we talk about reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, we have to be really specific about what (opposition groups) are attacking,” Close said. “And that is abortion access.”



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.