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Ohio abortion rights groups merge and set sights for amendment on November ballot

VOTING
Posted at 10:27 AM, Feb 17, 2023

The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.

Two groups who had already committed to separate efforts to get reproductive rights in the hands of Ohio voters have now merged and set an end goal: abortion access on the November ballot.

Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights announced Thursday that they are joining together to “file language with the Ohio Attorney General to place a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to restore and protect reproductive rights and abortion access on the November 2023 statewide general election ballot.”

“This grassroots initiative – by and for the people of Ohio – is foundational to ensuring access to abortion and the right to bodily autonomy, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio and member of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, said in the announcement.

The groups said the constitutional amendment will look similar to a Michigan amendment which voters approved in November 2022.

After the amendment is drafted and reviewed by the state Attorney General and Ohio Ballot Board, the groups plan to circulate petitions to place the issue on the ballot.

Rumblings of a constitutional amendment have been floating for months now, spurred on by the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned decades-old nationwide rights to abortion nationwide in Roe v. Wade.

Placing the measure on the 2023 ballot was called a “moral imperative” which “offers the best prospects for success,” according to Dr. Lauren Beene, executive director of the OPRR.

“The lives and health of Ohioans have been at risk since Roe was overturned,” Beene said in a statement. “That is why we must seize the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that doctors and patients, rather than politicians and the government, are empowered to make decisions about pregnancy, contraception and abortion.”

The move comes as some abortion rights advocates are ramping up legal efforts to protect patients and physicians seeking abortion care or advice, along with a battle involving Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost to keep abortion pills from being distributed through the mail or at national pharmacies, and a new study that showed abortion clinics find itmore and more difficult to comply with laws on the subject because of bureaucratic discretion.

The ballot measure might have another issue if in-fighting within the state’s Republican caucus continues. One side of the caucus is promoting the controversial legislation that would raise the threshold to approve constitutional amendments, while House Speaker Jason Stephens didn’t list it as one of the priority bills he and his faction unveiled on Wednesday.

Republicans on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest in legislative prohibitions to abortion since the downfall of Roe, and both sides are awaiting the resolution of a court case under which a six-week abortion ban is paused indefinitely as appeals go through.