The Ohio Legislature, controlled by the GOP, passed one series of measures Changing the state constitution to protect abortion rights could be more difficult this week.
Ohio voters will now head to the ballot box on August 8 to decide whether to increase the vote to 60% threshold Support for the passage of voting measures to amend the state constitution. Only a majority is currently required.
Reproductive rights groups claim the move is specifically aimed at making it harder for voters to pass an amendment due to go to the vote in November that would enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio constitution.
Voters will also decide whether groups wanting to conduct ballot measures must collect signatures from voters in all 88 Ohio counties, instead of the 44 now required.
Because the measures were passed by a joint resolution, no signature from the governor is required.
The moves Republicans-led come just weeks after reproductive rights groups across the state overcame several key hurdles in their own path to putting their benchmarks on the ballot in November.
While the measures passed this week make no specific mention of abortion, reproductive rights groups claim efforts to raise the threshold aim to upend their efforts to pass their own ballot measure in November this year.
If voters reach the threshold in August, the abortion rights amendment proposed in November would need to be approved by 60% of voters. Should it fail in August, all it would need is a majority.
“It’s basically just a way to cheat the system. It’s pretty clear that this initiative comes from anti-voter extremists within the Ohio legislature, with the goal of finding a way to change the rules so that Ohioans themselves have no say in how they govern their bodies want,” said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, the president and founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, a group that has led the efforts of reproductive rights groups across the state for nearly a year.
Several groups opposed to the recent measures, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition, immediately announced efforts to increase turnout and awareness for August’s election to help prevent the proposal.
Republican supporters of the newly passed measures have said They would protect the state constitution from attempts to change it funded by extra-state “special interests”.
“They’re literally trying to manipulate the rules,” Azevedo said. “They just know they can’t win by the rules.”
However, raising the bar for passing future constitutional amendments would mean a major change in state procedures: Ohio has had the simple majority required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment since 1912.
Have public polls shown that about 59% of Ohio voters support incorporating abortion rights into the state constitution — a figure just below the newly proposed increased threshold.
“Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights” suggested measure would insert language into the Condition A constitution enshrining the right of every individual to “make and carry out his or her own reproductive choices,” including in relation to contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion. It also stipulates that the state “may not burden or punish people”. “prohibit, interfere with or discriminate against those rights”.
The proposed amendment provides that abortions can be banned based on fetal viability, but includes exceptions to protect the life or health of the mother.
The group has until July 5 to collect about 413,000 valid signatures — 10% of the total votes cast under Ohio law in the last governor’s race — in at least 44 of the state’s 88 counties to push through the change. Azevedo said the coalition was “right on the right track”.
The proposed change is intended to serve as Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which snapped back into place immediately after the Supreme Court fell Roe v. calf last summer. This law, which effectively bans most abortions – but provides exceptions for the health of the pregnant woman and in the case of ectopic pregnancies – remains in place temporarily clogged by a state judge.
Efforts in Ohio to use the state constitution to protect abortion rights mirror those across the US in the year since the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade lifted.
Energized by a perfect record in electoral measures in the midterm elections, reproductive rights groups quickly see their goal on planning citizen-led ballot initiatives that would enshrine abortion rights in the constitutions of ten states this year.
However, Republican-led parliaments emerged just as quickly began trying to limit the abilities of the citizens and other lawmakers to take ballot measures — a move progressive groups say is specifically aimed at making it harder for voters in the red and purple states to have a direct say on important issues like abortion rights.