Supporters of reproductive rights attempt to cover the posters of counter protesters at a rally to support abortion rights less than two weeks after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed a likely reversal of Roe v. Wade, May 14, 2022, at the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)
Less than two weeks until the deadline, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights is saying abortion right advocates will get the signatures needed to put a measure on the November ballot that would enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution.
Abortion advocates attempting to get the amendment on the ballot need to collect 413,000 signatures by July 5.
“The signature gathering effort has been going very well and we are on track to be successful,” Dr. Lauren Beene, OPRR co-founder and general pediatrician in Northeast Ohio, said Thursday during a media call. “We will have reached our goals to be able to submit before the deadline coming up in July.”
OPRR said they were unable to quantify how many signatures have been gathered so far because the number constantly changes.
“We’re actually in the verification and counting phase right now,” Beene said.
This comes as the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision nears, which overturned Roe v. Wade and gave states the power to regulate abortion access. OPRR, which formed after the Dobbs decision, has grown to more than 4,000 individual healthcare members.
Abortion is currently legal in Ohio up to 21 weeks as the six-week abortion ban is held up in court.
Before the November election, abortion advocates first must look to the Aug. 8 special election when Ohioans will vote on Issue 1, which would raise the threshold for a constitutional amendment to pass from a simple majority of 50% plus one to 60%.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently said Issue 1 is, “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”
“Issue 1 is obviously extremely important to us,” OPRR co-founder and pulmonologist Dr. Marcela Azevedo said. It is targeted towards our issue. … We are pretty aware that this is just another desperate attempt to thwart the will of voters with a goal of ending majority rule and transferring the power from the people to politicians and lobbyists in Columbus. This constitutional amendment is just another ploy.”
After the Dobbs decision last June, Ohio’s six-week abortion ban was in place for about 11 weeks until a Hamilton County judge put a temporary restraining order on the heartbeat bill.
“Living under a time period where you’re doing the right thing for patients and it’s illegal was not something I would have thought it would have experienced in my career,” said Dr. Amy Burkett, a board-certified OB/GYN in northeast Ohio and OPRR member. “Doing the right thing was not supported by my state legislature.”
That’s how the constitutional amendment was born.
“Our solution to the ambiguity and confusing nature of the poorly written heartbeat ban is our constitutional amendment right,” Beene said. “What we are putting forth what people have been coming out of the woodwork to sign.”
She said the decision for someone to get an abortion should be between them and their doctor.
“You have to make sure what’s most important is that when our patients need access to care, that access to care is available and available immediately,” Beene said.
OPRR members said it’s tough to quantify how many people were referred out of state by Ohio doctors while the six-week ban was in place, but said it’s not always possible for patients to go out of state.
“That’s a huge burden to patients to have to go somewhere else for the care that’s considered evidence based health care,” Burkett said. “They need funds for travel. If it’s overnight they’re missing more work, they may need childcare.”
Ohio had 21,813 abortions in 2021, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.
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