May 12, 2023 - News

Abortion rights battle intensifies in Ohio

Illustration of a red caduceus crossed with a blue caduceus.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The fight over abortion rights in Ohio just got more complicated.

Driving the news: Republican state lawmakers on Wednesday adopted a resolution to create an August special election; Ohioans would vote on a proposed amendment to raise the passage threshold for future constitutional amendments to a 60% supermajority.

Why it matters: Many view the action, which will probably face legal challenges, as intended to preempt a potential November ballot amendment that would protect abortion rights.

Catch up fast: Abortion rights groups have until July 5 to collect the necessary signatures to add a proposed amendment preserving abortion access to the November ballot.

Between the lines: Though several crucial steps remain, increasing the constitutional amendment passage threshold by 10 percentage points could mean everything for the future of abortion rights in Ohio.

Reality check: "Based on polling, there's plenty of reason to believe that the [abortion rights] amendment would pass if only a simple majority were required," Christopher Devine, associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, tells Axios. "But based on recent evidence, I do not expect that it would clear a 60% threshold."

Of note: Ohio lawmakers eliminated most special elections just last year, citing their exorbitant cost and low turnout.

  • Groups opposing the 60% threshold — including the ACLU and League of Women Voters of Ohio — contend Wednesday's resolution cannot change the law and are considering legal options to stop an August special election.

What they're saying: "These people, who are clearly fueled by the anti-choice lobby, are trying to silence the will of the Ohio people through the people's own government and wasting taxpayer money to do it," Lauren Beene, executive director of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, tells Axios.

The other side: House Speaker Jason Stephens said Wednesday the resolution is part of "representative democracy," the Ohio Capital Journal reports.

  • "It's [about] allowing that debate and allowing people to take a vote, and now the people of Ohio have a chance to take a vote."

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