Ohio Abortion Rights Groups File Proposed Amendment Language to Enshrine Right to Reproductive Healthcare

The measure is the seventh such amendment proposed for a state constitution.

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click to enlarge A scene from the 2023 Women's March Cleveland in Ohio City - Emanuel Wallace
Emanuel Wallace
A scene from the 2023 Women's March Cleveland in Ohio City

Two abortion rights groups today filed the language for a proposed “Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” amendment to Ohio’s state constitution.

The amendment, submitted by Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights (OPRR) and Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, states: “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.”

It would also allow for abortions after the point of fetal viability in situations where a physician believes the patient’s life or health is in danger.

The groups are hoping to get the amendment in front of Ohioans for a vote on the November ballot.

The summary of the amendment must now go through the Attorney General and the Ohio Ballot Board before the Attorney General can file the amendment and summary with the Secretary of State.

After the amendment is filed, petitioners can begin collecting and submitting the 413,488 necessary signatures before July 5, 2023.

If passed, the proposed amendment would protect Ohioans’ right to abortion in the state constitution. The amendment is not the first of its kind. In November of 2022, California, Michigan and Vermont voted to approve similar amendments, enshrining the right to “personal reproductive autonomy.”

Comparable measures failed to pass in Kansas, Kentucky and Montana.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision protecting the right to an abortion in the United States, in June of 2022, a so-called “heartbeat bill” signed by Governor Mike DeWine went into effect. The bill banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, about six weeks after conception–a point where many are unaware of their pregnancy.

The law was blocked by a Hamilton County judge but was appealed by Attorney General Dave Yost in January. Currently, Ohio allows abortions through 22 weeks of pregnancy.

But activists are concerned that could change.

“Ohioans are perilously close to losing access to safe, legal, comprehensive reproductive medical care,” said OPRR executive director Dr. Lauren Beene in a statement. “As we saw first-hand when Ohio’s abortion ban went into effect last year, withholding that care puts people’s lives and health at risk. This common sense amendment ensures that physicians will be able to provide the care our patients need and deserve free from government interference.”

The amendment would also protect people seeking abortions and those assisting them from state interference, discrimination and punishment.

It does not take aim at Ohio’s requirement that minors get permission from a parent or guardian in order to get an abortion. However, minors can avoid this requirement through a judicial bypass, a process where a judge grants permission instead. The Abortion Fund of Ohio launched the state’s first Legal Access Program to assist with this in February.

“Now that we have taken this critical first step in the process, we are eager to begin collecting the signatures needed to place the amendment on the ballot so Ohioans, rather than government and extremist politicians, have the opportunity to determine the future of reproductive health care in our state,” said OPRR president Dr. Marcela Azevedo in a statement.

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