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Ohio abortion rights measure to head before voters on November ballot

Ohio GOP takes aim at abortion amendment
Ohio GOP try to make it harder to amend the state's constitution to target abortion access 06:30

Washington — A proposal to enshrine reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution will head before voters in the state after the secretary of state announced Tuesday that a measure to amend the state constitution qualified for the November general election ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment, called "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety," provides that every individual has the right to make their own reproductive decisions, including on contraception and abortion, and prohibits the state from prohibiting or interfering with the "voluntary exercise of this right." 

The measure would allow the state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability, which it defines as "the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient's treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures."

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose certified that the group Ohioans United for Reproductive Freedom submitted nearly 496,000 valid signatures, exceeding the roughly 413,000 required for the measure to be put before voters on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The amendment will now go before the Ohio Ballot Board, which will draft the language describing the proposal that will appear on the ballot.

"Every person deserves respect, dignity, and the right to make reproductive health care decisions, including those related to their own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion free from government interference," Lauren Blauvelt and Dr. Lauren Beene, members of the Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights executive committee, said in a statement.

While citizen-initiated constitutional amendments currently require a simple majority to win approval, state Republicans in May voted to send a resolution raising that bar to a 60% supermajority to the electorate.

The 60% vote proposal, known as Issue 1, will be on the ballot for an Aug. 8 special election. If voters approve the supermajority marker, the reproductive rights ballot initiative would be subject to the new heightened threshold.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade more than a year ago, abortion rights proponents in key states have mounted efforts to protect abortion access at the ballot box through the ballot measure process.

In the six states where the issue of reproductive rights was put directly to voters during the 2022 midterm cycle, the pro-abortion rights position was successful in all, including in the traditionally red states of Kansas and Kentucky, and Ohio's neighboring state of Michigan.

Ohio is poised to be the only state with abortion on the ballot in 2023, and a USA Today Network/Suffolk University poll published Monday showed 58% of likely Ohio voters backed the proposed constitutional amendment. 

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