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GOP Lawsuit Asks Ohio Supreme Court to Block Abortion Rights Measure

“Anti-choice extremists know they can’t win at the ballot box, so they have resorted to dirty tricks,” an advocate said.

Protesters rally in support of abortion rights in Dayton, Ohio, on May 19, 2019.

Three days after Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose approved an abortion rights amendment for the November election, Republicans filed a lawsuit asking that the Ohio Supreme Court block the proposed abortion rights amendment from being included on the ballot.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights has successfully gathered more than 495,000 valid signatures from 55 counties to ensure that the amendment will appear on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the amendment would make abortion a constitutional right in the state.

“Anti-choice extremists know they can’t win at the ballot box, so they have resorted to dirty tricks to try to silence the voice of Ohioans,” said Gabriel Mann, spokesman for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights. “We expected a desperate challenge like this one, but we are confident we have met every requirement to be on the ballot as the secretary of state has already certified.”

This is only the latest move by conservatives in the state to block the amendment which would undo a 2019 trigger law passed by Republicans, which went into effect in 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. The trigger law restricted abortion access after six weeks and is currently blocked from going into effect while abortion advocates challenge the law in court.

The proposed abortion rights amendment states that “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.” The amendment would protect abortion rights up to 22-24 weeks after a person becomes pregnant.

In response to this initiative, conservatives are attempting to raise the threshold for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments in the state in a special election on August 8. If Ohio voters support Issue 1, the abortion rights measure may be blocked — despite nearly 6 in 10 Ohio voters (58 percent) supporting the abortion rights ballot, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Sixty percent of voters would need to approve the measure, instead of a simple majority, to protect abortion access in the state.

New campaign finance records have shown that GOP mega donor Richard Uihlein is funding the bulk of the campaign and has provided $4 million to Protect our Constitution, the main group supporting Issue 1. Additionally, Protect Women Ohio, a group that aims to thwart the ballot measure on abortion, spent more than $8 million on a TV ad showing drag queens in an attempt to scare Ohio voters into voting yes on Issue 1. The TV ad did not mention abortion rights once.

The recent legal action by conservatives, filed by Cincinnati attorney Curt Hartman, argues that the abortion rights petition does not identify which state laws would have to be repealed if the constitutional amendment were to be adopted — and that therefore the petition is invalid and cannot be placed on the ballot in November.

While the Ohio Supreme Court is dominated by Republicans who have said on record that they oppose abortion, the court has previously hindered some of the attempts by conservatives to make it harder for Ohioans to pass constitutional amendments. In June, for example, the court ordered the state ballot board to update inaccurate language summarizing the Republican-led effort to raise the threshold for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments in their attempt to thwart the abortion rights initiative. In March, Hartman had filed a suit against the Ohio Ballot Board over its approval of petition language, which was rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court.

“Every person deserves respect, dignity, and the right to make reproductive health care decisions, including those related to their own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion free from government interference,” Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights Executive Committee members Lauren Blauvelt and Dr. Lauren Beene said in a statement. “Now that the petition drive is complete, we’re eager to continue the campaign to enshrine those rights in Ohio’s Constitution and ensure that Ohioans will never again be subject to draconian reproductive health care policies imposed by extremists.”

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