Feb 15, 2023 - News

Abortion rights amendment could shake up Ohio politics

Protestors hold up signs during a rally in downtown Dayton, Ohio.

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Dayton in May 2022. Photo: Whitney Saleski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A movement to secure abortion rights in Ohio entered a key phase this month.

What's happening: Protect Choice Ohio and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom are looking to put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access.

Why it matters: If the amendment makes it to the ballot and is approved, it could affirm Ohio's status as an important swing state heading into the 2024 election year when abortion will be a major issue.

Catch up fast: Ohio's "heartbeat" abortion law, which prohibits the procedure in Ohio after six weeks of gestation, became law following the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

  • However, in October, a Hamilton County judge issued a permanent injunction on the statute after a lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and the ACLU of Ohio, allowing abortions to be legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy while litigation continues.
  • The state's appeal of the injunction could eventually go before the Ohio Supreme Court.

What's next: Protect Choice Ohio and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom plan to file language for their amendment with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office by Feb. 28.

  • Yost would have 10 days to determine whether the language constitutes "fair and truthful representation" of the proposed amendment and submit it to the Ohio Ballot Board.
  • If the language is approved, 413,446 signatures from registered voters — 10% of the voter turnout in the 2022 gubernatorial election — would have to be collected by July 5 for the amendment to make the November ballot.
  • Plus: The signatures must be from voters in at least half of the state's 88 counties.

What they're saying: Christopher Devine, associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, believes the amendment would pass.

  • "If you go back to the exit polls for the 2022 midterms, about 60% of Ohioans took a pro-choice position on abortion," Devine tells Axios. "That tells me if you put the issue on the ballot in November, it's likely to earn the majority vote it needs to pass."

The other side: Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis told The Cincinnati Enquirer that abortion opponents are "up for the challenge" and "have the resources available to win, guaranteed."

Zoom out: In November 2022, Michigan voters approved a similar amendment to the state's constitution guaranteeing abortion rights.

The bottom line: The amendment would be a huge win for pro-choice advocates, as well as Democrats eyeing abortion rights as a focus for 2024.

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