A Womb of One’s Own: 700K+ Ohioans Rally for Ballot Initiative to Safeguard Abortion Rights

This November, Ohio citizens may get the unique chance to affirm abortion rights in their state constitution. Pro-choice activists have rallied, gathering over 700,000 signatures to introduce this critical question as a ballot initiative.

While the signatures are pending official certification, potential challenges are expected to flop. Organizers amassed a whopping 710,131 signatures, nearly 300,000 more than the threshold required for approval of a ballot initiative.

If this monumental initiative passes, it would dismantle a 2019 “trigger law,” launched by Republicans and set into motion in 2022 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s blow to federal abortion rights previously shielded by Roe v. Wade. This state law imposes limits on abortions post the detection of cardiac activity, typically around six weeks — a time frame many physicians vehemently criticize as non-scientific and alarmingly restrictive, given it often precedes the realization of pregnancy. Presently, this 2019 law is on hold due to a judicial order.

In stark contrast, the proposed state amendment would affirm that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” as per the amendment text. This encompasses the freedom to make decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, pregnancy continuation, and abortion.

The proposed amendment allows for continued state restrictions on abortions post “fetal viability” — usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, it insists that abortion cannot be banned if “in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

If the amendment indeed makes it to the November ballot, it stands a high chance of voter approval. A June poll indicates that 58 percent of Ohioan’s support safeguards for the right to abortion, contraception, and fertility treatment, with a mere 23 percent in full opposition. (Another 20 percent remain uncertain.)

The news of organizers successfully securing more than double the required signatures was met with jubilant celebration by advocates for reproductive freedom, who anticipate a victorious outcome this fall.

“We know that Ohioans, just like our neighbors in Michigan and Kentucky — when given the chance to vote for abortion access, they will,” expressed Lauren Blauvelt, Vice President of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.

“Ohioans must be empowered to make our own reproductive health care decisions free from political meddling. Abortions aren’t political; they are a crucial safety net that safeguards the wellbeing of all,” said Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of Pro-Choice Ohio, underscoring the significance of personal choice in matters of reproductive health.