Ohio came one step closer to becoming the next major testing ground in the national fight against abortion, after supporters of a measure that would ask voters to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution this week claimed to have filed more than enough signatures to put on the November runoff.
Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights said Wednesday it had collected about 710,000 signatures in all 88 counties of the state in the past 12 weeks. Under state law, the coalition needed 413,466 to qualify for the ballot. State election officials now have until July 25 to verify the signatures.
Abortion-rights advocates are turning to electoral measures in the aftermath of last year’s US Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, who had guaranteed the right to abortion in the federal constitution for 50 years. They bet on polls that show that public opinion increasingly supports a certain right to abortion and opposes the stricter bans and laws that conservative states have enacted since the court’s decision.
Voters in six states, including conservatives like Kentucky and Kansas, voted to protect or establish an abortion right in their constitutions in last year’s election, and abortion-rights advocates in about 10 more states are considering similar plans.
But the provision of the November vote is not the only one that will have big stakes for the future of abortion in Ohio. Republicans who oppose abortion rights — and who control the state’s General Assembly — have proposed another measure that would make it more difficult for ballot measures to pass.
Republican leaders in the Legislature have placed a measure on the August primary ballot that would raise the threshold required to pass a campaign measure to 60 percent, by a simple majority. While August elections are typically low-turnout and tend to favor those who sponsor the measures, Kansas Republicans who attempted to enforce abortion rights under the state Constitution last August failed, with an unexpectedly high percentage high of Kansas residents who were against it. The August measure in Ohio won’t specifically mention abortion, however, and it’s unclear whether abortion-rights advocates will be able to rally their supporters as effectively as their counterparts in Kansas last year.
An Ohio law passed in 2019 banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they were pregnant — and that law went into effect after Roe was overturned. A county court judge placed the ban on the stay pending trial, saying Ohio’s constitution included a « fundamental right to abortion, » in part because it guaranteed equal protection and benefits for women. This leaves abortion legal until 22 weeks of pregnancy.
The ballot provision would amend the Constitution to add « the right to reproductive liberty amendment with health and safety protections, » which in many ways resembles the protections established by Roe.
The amendment would establish the right to abortion but would allow it to be prohibited after the fetus is viable outside the uterus, generally around 23 or 24 weeks. It would allow laws restricting abortion before feasibility, provided those laws use the « least restrictive means to improve the health of the individual in accordance with widely accepted, evidence-based standards of care. »