COLUMBUS, Ohio — JULY 05: Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio speaks at the Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights press conference where they announced the delivery of 402 boxes of petitions with over 700,000 signatures to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, July 5, 2023, at the Columbus Athenaeum, Corinthian Room, downtown Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)
An abortion rights amendment proposed for the Ohio Constitution was certified on Tuesday to go forward for consideration by voters in November as nearly 500,000 signatures in support were verified by the Secretary of State’s office.
In a letter to the campaign that collected signatures to put the ballot measure to Ohioans this year, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said 495,938 valid signatures were recorded, and a total of 55 counties fulfilled the percentage requirements for verification.
“Therefore, in the absence of judicial direction to the contrary, I will direct the boards of election to place the proposed amendment on the November 7, 2023, general election ballot,” LaRose wrote.
When advocates turned their boxes of signatures in to the secretary of state’s office on the July 5 deadline, they reported more than 700,000 signatures were submitted to be verified statewide.
Despite the lower number, the final tally is well above Ohio’s legal requirements to put an amendment proposal on the ballot.
Based on current law, abortion rights advocates needed to collect 413,487 signatures in 44 of 88 counties, a number based on election results from the last governor’s race.
Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights (OURR), a coalition of groups supporting the the codification of abortion rights in the state constitution, celebrated the news, but also set their sights on another hurdle at the ballot: Issue 1, hitting voters next month in the August 8 primary.
Issue 1 would make it harder for Ohio voters to amend the constitution by raising the threshold from a simple majority to 60%. If passed, Issue 1 would require the abortion ballot measure to meet that threshold.
It would also require proposals made after January 1, 2024, to meet signature requirements in all 88 counties instead of the current requirement of 44 counties.
“Now that the petition drive is complete, we’re eager to continue the campaign to enshrine those rights in Ohio’s constitution and ensure that Ohioans will never again be subject to draconian reproductive health care policies imposed by extremists,” wrote Lauren Blauvelt and Dr. Lauren Beene, executive committee members for the OURR, in a statement.
“This is a major step for Ohio, but it’s bigger than just one state,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director for Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. “This is about reversing the tide of abortion bans and securing a better future for us all.”
GOP leaders including LaRose have admitted Issue 1 supporters are motivated by their desire to stop the abortion rights amendment.
The campaign standing in opposition to the abortion amendment, Protect Women Ohio, and anti-abortion lobby Ohio Right to Life, decried the new development, pushing ahead with their efforts to block the amendment from passage.
Peter Range, CEO of Ohio Right to Life, called the amendment “anti-life,” and said it is “even more imperative that every pro-life Ohioan votes yes on Issue 1 this August to ensure that our constitution, our preborn and our families are protected,” according to a statement sent by the group.
Protect Women Ohio said they have spent “an initial” $8 million on TV, radio and digital ads in support of Issue 1, and against the November abortion amendment.
With the amendment now allowed to go to the ballot, the Ohio Ballot Board chaired by LaRose will draft the language voters will read about the measure on their ballots.
Recent polls show 57.6% of Ohioans support the abortion rights amendment, while 32.4% oppose it and 10% are undecided. On the Aug. 8 Issue 1 effort to change the threshold for passage of amendments from 50% to 60%, another recent poll showed 57.2% of Ohioans oppose Issue 1, while 26% support it, and 17% are undecided.
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