Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that organizers submitted enough valid signatures to put an amendment on the November ballot to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.
“I hereby certify that petitioners submitted 495,938 total valid signatures on behalf of the proposed statewide initiative,” LaRose wrote in a letter to petitioners, clearing the hurdle of roughly 414,000 signatures required to be placed on the ballot this fall.
The proposed amendment in Ohio would ensure “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s reproductive decisions.” The statewide vote would come a year after two of Ohio’s neighboring states – deep-red Kentucky and the political battleground of Michigan – supported abortion rights in their own ballot measures.
After the announcement, Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters called it an “important victory for Ohio women.”
“Out-of-touch politicians are relentlessly attacking women’s fundamental rights, inserting themselves into women’s personal, medical decisions and laying the groundwork for a total abortion ban in Ohio. In the days and weeks ahead, we look forward to telling these corrupt politicians: we won’t go back,” Walters said in statement.
Ahead of the November election, Ohio voters face another key vote: an August 8 special election set by the Republican-controlled legislature, in which voters will decide whether to raise the threshold for amending the state constitution from the current simple majority to 60%.
Opponents of such a special election include abortion rights activists and two of Ohio’s former Republican governors, Bob Taft and John Kasich, who all point out the session is set to happen during a slow summer season where turnout is expected to be low.
Taft, at a forum in Dayton last month, called it a “major mistake,” adding, “This is a kind of change that really needs to be considered by all the people who go out and vote in a presidential election.”
Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, which collected the signatures and submitted the petition, said in a statement Tuesday that sponsors of the August special election “have admitted it was placed on the ballot for one reason: to silence the voices of the vast majority of Ohioans who support reproductive rights and abortion access.”
While the vote on the abortion amendment plays out, the procedure in Ohio remains legal up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy after a Cincinnati judge last year temporarily blocked a “fetal heartbeat” bill that would have banned most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That ban was a trigger law passed in 2019, which took effect when the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade with its decision last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“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,” Lauren Blauvelt and Lauren Beene, executive committee board members for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, said in the organization’s 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,” they added.
With the petition recognized, LaRose will send it to the Ohio Ballot Board, where language on the amendment will be drafted for its inclusion on the November general election ballot, according to Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights – who, in the meantime, said they “will actively participate” in the effort to defeat the measure up for a vote in August.