Abortion amendment may be coming to Ohio voters this November


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An ammendment passed to the Ohio State Attorney General calling for the reinstatement of abortion rights has once again stirred pro-choice versus pro-life sentiment as ballot day approaches.

Zachary Treseler, Staff Writer

On Feb. 21, two groups, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Rights—a collection of Planned Parenthood for Greater Ohio, American Civil Liberties Union, Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, New Voices and other organizations—submitted text to the State Attorney General for an amendment to the state constitution which would guarantee access to abortion for Ohioans. 

For Dr. Karen Beckwith, political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, it is “not surprising that Ohio citizens have organized to reinstate abortion rights through the mechanism of a constitutional amendment.” 

Dr. Beckwith points out that, “Ohio has a range of mechanisms through which citizens can assert themselves in legislative and constitutional matters: statewide referenda, statewide legislative initiative, and constitutional amendments,” and since the Dobbs v. Jackson (2022) decision overturning the right to abortion federally, “California, Michigan, and Vermont had statewide constitutional amendments on the November 2022 ballot that would protect and constitutionally enshrine abortion rights, and all passed,” while anti-abortion ballot issues, like those in Kansas, Kentucky and Montana were rejected by voters.

“There is support in Ohio for access to legal abortion, from citizens, women’s rights groups, and healthcare providers. The current law in Ohio, hastily written and enacted, has already posed serious challenges to healthcare providers in responding to cases of miscarriage, particularly problematic as maternity units in hospitals in northeast Ohio have closed,” Beckwith notes. She also discussed popular support for this ballot initiative in Ohio; “a Suffolk University poll found in June 2022 that a majority (53%) of Ohioans supported legal access to abortion. Self-identified Democrats and Independents (nonpartisans) reported super-majority support for abortion rights; only 21% of Republican Party identifiers reported support.” 

Malik Swisher, the Regional Field Manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio’s Greater Cleveland Office, and the advisor to Planned Parenthood Generation @ CWRU (PPGEN@CWRU) noted that his organization “believe[s] that every Ohioan deserves access to reproductive healthcare without question.” He states that the ballot initiative is to ensure that the legislators “cannot, or has very little avenue to make any further restrictions to reproductive health in our state.” 

Taking a different perspective, Ethan Hansen, president of Case for Life, argues that this ballot measure isn’t just about abortion, as he stated, “[I] agree with most of it as I think most of it isn’t actually about abortion,” citing provisions for contraception and fertility treatment. Hansen notes that, “there are crazy people in the pro-life camp who want to ban condoms and stuff like that. But that’s not what we want.” Though he and his student group are “generally opposed to [the ballot initiative] specifically because of the language of protecting access of abortion,” he reiterates that he “and others on the pro-[life] side believe preborn humans are full human beings with a right for life.”

Dr. Beckwith says that there is a second issue at play in addition to access to abortion, “the right of Ohioans to participate in democracy and democracy-building through the mechanisms of statewide voter participation in legislative and constitutional issues. State Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Asheville, introduced the Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment, which is more accurately an Ohio protection from abortion rights amendment.” Beckwith notes that the current legislation in Columbus, Ohio is designed to make amending the constitution more difficult; to stop a ballot initiative like this one from not passing, “the failure of states to amend state constitutions to prohibit abortion rights has moved Republican legislators in multiple states to propose supermajority requirements for constitutional amendments.”

Should the amendment language get approved by the Attorney General’s office, it will be voted on in November 2023, which Dr. Beckwith notes is “not during midterm elections or a presidential election. This will heighten attention to the issue and make mobilization around the proposed amendment, and election turnout, crucial to the outcome.”

When the time comes to vote on it, both Hansen and Swisher highlight the need for students to be informed. Hansen advises students to, “get info from both sides, as I think oftentimes we are in our own echo chamber.” He recommends students check out “Planned Parenthood’s website, and also check out [what] Ohio Right to Life is about.” Swisher encourages students to join PPGEN@CWRU as “they are going to be instrumental and organizing voters on campus…just get in contact with them and we will take care of you!”