National News

Ohio Voters To Decide on State’s Constitutional Right to Abortion

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus is pictured Dec. 12, 2020. Ohio voters will vote in an Aug. 8, 2023, special election on whether to raise the threshold for amending their state’s constitution. The outcome could make an impact on a potential ballot measure regarding abortion in November. (Photo: OSV/Seth Herald, Reuters)

WASHINGTON – In this year’s November elections, Ohio voters will decide if a right to an abortion should be added to the state constitution.

State officials said the proposal had gained enough signatures July 25 to be placed on the ballot. Nearly 496,000 valid signatures had been submitted and 414,000 were required.

The state’s Republican lawmakers have not yet determined how many votes the ballot will need to pass and are calling for a special election August 8 about raising the threshold from a simple majority of voters to 60%.

Language in the proposed amendment for the November ballot says it would ensure that “every individual has a right to carry out one’s reproductive choices.” 

The amendment now goes to the Ohio Ballot Board that will draft the language for how the amendment will appear on the ballot.

Supporters of the ballot proposal have said that this measure is needed to protect access to abortion after last year’s Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

After the high court’s abortion ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, an abortion ban took effect in Ohio prohibiting doctors from performing abortions after a heartbeat was detected, or about six weeks into pregnancy. That law is currently on hold in the state, after a judge last year blocked it. Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

The language in the Ohio measure is similar to a constitutional amendment Michigan voters approved last November. The Ohio measure would require restrictions imposed past a fetus’ viability outside the womb —around the 24th week of pregnancy— to be based on patient health and safety benefits.

A statement by Ohio Right to Life said that if the ballot measure passes it would “enshrine abortion until birth and remove all protections for the preborn including a parent’s ability to stop their child from being pressured into an abortion.”

The group is encouraging people to vote against the measure and to vote in favor of the August special election to change the number of votes needed for the amendment to pass.

Lauren Blauvelt and Dr. Lauren Beene, executive committee members for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, said the measure was about people’s “right to make reproductive health care decisions, including those related to their own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion free from government interference.”

The Ohio Catholic bishops, in a letter to the state’s Catholics earlier this year, criticized the amendment saying it would “enshrine and expand abortion at the expense of protections for preborn children and women.”

“The Church must not be silent and cannot remain on the sidelines when confronted with such a clear threat to human life,” they wrote. The bishops urged Catholics in the state to work against including this proposal in the November ballot and said that if it appears, they should “vote against the amendment to prevent countless deaths of preborn, innocent children.”

When the proposed amendment was announced in February, the Ohio Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, said the “vague language in the proposed amendment places preborn children and women at risk of losing the safeguards on their health and wellbeing “

They also said they would work to “engage in a campaign to inform Catholics and work with statewide groups to ensure Ohioans understand the need to stop this attempt to rewrite Ohio’s Constitution.”