The Right to Reproductive Freedom

In its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court ruled, by a 7-2 vote, that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited states from banning abortions across the board. The Court declared that a woman has a fundamental right to an abortion that must be balanced against competing governmental policies. In general, this decision prohibited states from making abortions illegal during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.

Some legal scholars have faulted the reasoning in the Roe decision as insufficiently tied to express language in the Constitution. Whatever the validity of that criticism, Roe was unquestionably a decision limiting government power in favor of individual rights. Giving birth is one of the most consequential, not to mention painful, events in a woman’s life. At base, Roe stood for the proposition that government cannot always override an individual woman’s decision about such a major event in her life. Those who claim to support individual rights against government intrusion should be unswerving supporters of Roe.

Last year, in Dodd v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Supreme Court including three trump appointees overruled Roe v. Wade, giving state governments the power to regulate or completely ban abortions. In 2019, Ohio had enacted S.B. 23, which banned abortion at any time after detectable fetal “cardiac activity”, which typically occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy and is often before a woman knows she is pregnant. Enforcement of that statute has been enjoined by lower Ohio state courts. The litigation is in the Ohio Supreme Court which, with a special appointment for this case, has a clear majority for upholding S.B. 23.  Thus, it is highly likely that, for all practical purposes, abortion will soon be illegal in Ohio.

It is important, I think, to understand what the abortion debate is really about. It is not about “Right to Life.” We know from a myriad of conservative positions, opposition to common sense gun control, support for capital punishment, opposition to Covid mask mandates, and climate change denial being just a few examples, that preservation of human life has no place on a self-respecting conservative’s hierarchy of values. It is unfortunate that the allegedly “liberal” media has allowed abortion opponents to falsely call themselves “Pro-Life.”

There is, however, a moral issue at the root of the abortion debate, just not one openly discussed very often. The issue is, of course, sex. For centuries, some religions have taught and still teach that the only permissible reason to engage in sex is procreation. Sex not intended for procreation is sinful. A right to abortion allows a woman to choose to engage in sex and choose not to procreate. For some, this is a sinful choice. It is worth noting that Roe was based, in part, on a 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, which struck down a 19th Century Connecticut law banning sale of contraceptives as too great an intrusion into individual rights. We are beginning to hear conservatives call for Griswold to be overruled too.

The real question in the abortion debate is whether the coercive power of government should be used to impose on everyone the moral/religious views of a part of the population. The Ohio General Assembly and our Governor think the answer to that question is yes. Polling indicates that a majority of Ohioans disagree.

Ohioans now have an opportunity to protect the right of individual women to decide whether to give birth against government intrusion.

Petitions are being circulated to place an amendment to the Ohio Constitution on the November ballot to protect the right “to make and carry out one’s own decisions” regarding contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage treatment, and abortion.[1]

For Ohioans to have the right to vote on placing this individual right in the Ohio Constitution, at least 414,000 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters must be gathered on petitions statewide and submitted  to the Secretary of State by July 5, 2023. Those valid signatures gathered statewide must include a number of valid signatures of registered voters in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties equal to five per cent of the votes cast in that county in the 2022 general election vote for Governor.

In Clermont County, that means an absolute minimum of 4,022 signatures by registered Clermont County voters. Of course, not every petition signature will be valid. Thus, to have a reasonable chance of placing this individual right on the November ballot, at least twice as many signatures should be submitted as are required.

Activists are already gathering signatures in Clermont County. One impediment which is already becoming apparent is that abortion opponents, opponents of individual rights, are actively trying to interfere with collecting petition signatures. The Ohio Democratic Party has endorsed this individual rights amendment.

Petitions will be available for signature at the Clermont County Democratic Party headquarters at 174 East Main Street, Batavia.  The days and hours on which headquarters will be open will be posted at our website, If you want to sign the petition but cannot make it to Batavia when headquarters is open, please reach out to me. I can get you the information about when petitions will be available in other parts of the county.

Please do not sign a petition being circulated in another county. If you are a registered voter in Clermont County but sign a Hamilton County petition, for example, Ohio law says that your signature does not count. Not yet a registered voter? You can register online at or at the Clermont County Board of Elections. Many activists gathering petitions also have voter registration forms. You can register to vote and sign the petition at the same time.

We hear a lot from conservatives about individual rights and freedom in opposition to efforts to control guns and halt the destruction of our planet. The Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment is a genuine effort to enshrine individual rights and freedom in the Ohio Constitution. It is time for Democrats, progressives, and all Ohioans to stand up for this very basic individual liberty. Sign the petition and vote for the Amendment this November.

Stay safe.


[1] The full text of the proposed amendment can be found at