Abortion amendment ballot language submitted, Ballot Board set to meet Thursday

Abortion rights groups request full text on November ballots

By: - August 22, 2023 5:00 am

A voter at a ballot maker machine. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Gearing up for an Ohio Ballot Board meeting where constitutional amendment language regarding reproductive health will be considered, groups pushing for the measure want to see the entire text of the amendment on November ballots.

In a letter received by the Ohio Secretary of State on Monday, attorney Donald McTigue represented petitioners for the constitutional amendment in asking the board to use full text of the proposed amendment or a condensed version, so that voters can read the entire thing on their ballots in the general election this year.

“By using the full text, voters will see for themselves the language they are being asked to approve and can make a free and independent decision on this fundamental question,” McTigue wrote.

The abortion rights groups also argued that, in using the full text, “there can be no dispute about whether legal standards have been satisfied or whether the condensed text misleads, deceives or defrauds voters,” according to the letter.

The ballot measure’s title, as submitted by the groups for approval by the ballot board, is “To Establish the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.”

Because of the rejection of Issue 1 earlier this month at the polls, which would have raised the threshold to approve a constitutional amendment, a simple majority is needed to pass the measure.

In the language of the amendment, it specifies that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to” contraception, fertility treatments, pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.

It prohibits the state from doing anything to “directly or indirectly burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with or discriminate against” the exercise of the rights in the amendment, or those who assist in the exercise of the rights.

The amendment makes exceptions in terms of abortion, in which it would be “prohibited after fetal viability.”

“But 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,” the amendment states.

“Any attempt to alter wording away from the text of the amendment should be seen for what it is: an attempt to confuse and mislead voters,” said Lauren Blauvelt, of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, in a statement announcing the submission of the ballot language.

Opposition groups have claimed the amendment would impact parental rights and allow “late-term abortion,” neither of which are included in the language submitted to the ballot board. “Late-term abortion” is not considered a legitimate medical term.

Two different lawsuits attempting to keep the amendment from going before voters have been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Most recently, a former state legislator and a Catholic Ohio resident asked that the measure be blocked because it was unclear what laws it sought to change. A separate previous lawsuit argued the Ohio Ballot Board abused its power by improperly considering, and thus moving the ballot measure forward so that signatures could be collected in support of it.

That signature collection amounted to nearly 500,000 valid Ohio voter signatures, which allowed the measure to head to the ballot.

Another abortion-related lawsuit is still in the process of making it through the state’s highest court. That lawsuit was filed by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, challenging a Hamilton County court’s right to pause a six-week abortion ban implemented almost immediately after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade.

That law was passed in 2019, but has since been entangled in court cases. It bans abortion after six weeks gestation and was in place for several months following the Dobbs decision before being halted by the courts.

The Ohio Ballot Board is scheduled to consider and vote on the language on Thursday, where they will also consider language regarding a proposed statute for recreational marijuana.

This version has been corrected to specify opposition groups falsely claim the amendment will allow “late-term abortion.”



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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.