Ohio State Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester. Photo by WEWS.
The decisive legalization and protection of abortion and other reproductive care access in Ohio has infuriated some fringe Ohio Republican lawmakers — so much so that they are threatening to alter the democratic process in their favor.
Issue 1, the proposal to enshrine abortion access into the state constitution, passed 57-43% on election night. Despite this large victory, Statehouse Republicans have been mulling over ways to combat it.
State Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) is seemingly leading this fight with other far-right representatives Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Melanie Miller (R-Ashland) and Beth Lear (R-Galena). The quartet is described by other Republicans as being on the extreme end of their caucus due to anti-vaccine beliefs, peddling of conspiracy theories, and disapproval of equal protection for the LGBTQ+ community.
Instead of having judges and justices do their job by evaluating abortion issues, the lawmakers want to strip them of their duties due to perceived “mischief by pro-abortion courts,” they said in a news release published on the website for Ohio House Republicans.
“The Ohio legislature alone will consider what, if any, modifications to make to existing laws based on public hearings and input from legal experts on both sides,” the press release said.
An initial draft of the legislation was first reported by The Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com and then sent to WEWS/OCJ by a Republican in the House.
“The Ohio General Assembly shall have the exclusive authority over implementing Ohio Issue 1,” the draft says. “All jurisdiction is hereby withdrawn from and denied to the Courts of Common Pleas and all other courts of the State of Ohio.”
The draft legislation would also “immediately dismiss” all lawsuits or claims in court and would “vacate” all decisions made by a court, the draft continues. Being found guilty of this could lead to a misdemeanor, which would make it an impeachable offense.
Despite no evidence indicating any election fraud, Gross referenced “foreign election interference” as the reason why Issue 1 passed.
Lear took a different approach, saying the constitutional amendment isn’t valid.
“No amendment can overturn the God-given rights with which we were born,” Lear said.
Numerous nonpartisan constitutional legal experts agree this is not a serious argument. Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Entin explained why.
“Whatever authority the legislature might have to tinker with the jurisdiction of the state courts, it cannot eviscerate a rights-granting provision of the state constitution,” Entin said, citing Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution.
Even if the lawmakers were to pass this type of legislation, it would have to go through the people they are trying to take power away from. Entin expects the courts would strike it down.
“They should not be taken seriously,” the professor said. “These are symbolic or performative proposals.”
More than anything else, this is “dangerous,” Entin said.
Constitutional law expert Steven Steinglas scolded the lawmakers.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Steinglas said. “I know we’re talking respectfully about the Ohio General Assembly, but saner minds will, I am sure, prevail.”
This would violate the new constitutional amendment, principles of separation of power, principles of due process and equal protection, he added.
They are proposing that judges doing their job could become an impeachable offense for judges and justices, Steinglas said.
Although this is supposedly geared toward judges who lean left, the result of this proposal could impact every judge. If a conservative judge was to uphold the state constitution, they could lose their job.
Former Republican Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, who is currently executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, told WEWS/OCJ this may be insulting to judges if any proposal taking away power was an actual threat.
“If one took it seriously, you might find it insulting,” Pfeifer laughed. “I don’t take it seriously, and therefore I don’t find it insulting.”
The real issue isn’t Issue 1 passing, it is what these members and other GOP lawmakers are doing by denying the will of the people, he said.
“We’re less than a week after the public decided an important constitutional issue — decisively — and that really should be the end of the matter now,” he added. “We’re not well-served as citizens of this state to try and to stir up emotions just for the sake of stirring something up.”
Pfeifer doesn’t think it’s worthy enough cause to talk about realistically, since it’s unconstitutional and clearly judges won’t support it.
Although Gov. Mike DeWine is anti-abortion, he said the will of the people must be accepted. That acceptance did come with some vague caveats, though.
About a dozen Statehouse Republicans of varying degrees of anti-abortion belief told WEWS/OCJ that this would never happen. Democrats, on the other hand, are flabbergasted by the gall of their colleagues.
“Extreme politicians’ delusions of absolute power threaten the very fabric of American democracy and the individual freedom and liberty of citizens,” House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Dublin) said in response.
Democratic representatives have introduced legislation to repeal numerous restrictions in state law to abortion access. It is unlikely that the Republicans in the statehouse will pass this bill.
Twenty-seven of 67 Republican members of the House have condemned the passage of Issue 1.
“We will do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent,” the letter states.
The lawmakers plan to challenge Issue 1 in court. However, there doesn’t seem to be much the GOP can do legally.
“Instead of creating a constitutional crisis with desperate, anti-American attacks on the rule of law and the power of citizens, out-of-touch politicians should work to uphold the bipartisan will of the people by respecting health care decisions between women and their doctors,” Russo said.
This 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.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
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.