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Doctors group says an abortion ballot issue can't wait, preparing for 2023 ballot

Dr. Catherine Romanos, a Columbus area doctors and another doctor, protest on behalf of abortion rights at the Ohio Statehouse prior to the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned abortion rights in the U.S.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Dr. Catherine Romanos, a Columbus area doctors and another doctor, protest on behalf of abortion rights at the Ohio Statehouse prior to the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned abortion rights in the U.S.

One of two groups that wants to put a proposed constitutional amendment before voters that would guarantee reproductive rights says it is ready to put it on the ballot this November.

Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights is a group led by doctors.

Susan Shaw, the group's press secretary, says they are "100% moving ahead with getting an amendment on the ballot to voters this November."

She said physicians in her group are unwilling to wait until 2024 as some abortion rights advocates have suggested. Shaw said the doctors were dealing with dangerous situations when Ohio's abortion ban was in place in 2022. That law, which was put on hold, banned abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when cardiac electronic activity is detected.

That law was in place last summer but in October, the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court put it on hold for being too vague. That decision is being appealed. Shaw said the doctors don't want to take a chance that a court will allow it to be put in place again.

"When the six week abortion ban was enacted in Ohio, they saw first-hand and all of the horror stories and really sad outcomes with patients," Shaw said.

Republican state leaders who oppose abortion and have backed the "heartbeat" law have been appealing that court decision to put it on hold. Shaw said that's what makes doctors nervous.

"Our state attorney general has made no secret about, and our governor, of the intent of this administration. And the doctors think waiting another year is just unconscionable," Shaw said.

But Shaw's group isn't the only one that wants to put an abortion rights amendment before voters. A coalition made up of Pro-Choice Ohio, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood and others has hired Mission Control, a campaign consulting firm, to work on its campaign.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio said the group is testing language for a proposed constitutional amendment. Copeland said the coalition hasn’t decided to go for it this November or next. But she said the group is working with lawyers, political strategists and ordinary Ohioans to "get this right."

"We know how critically important this is for Ohioans who want to be able to have a voice, to be able to make their own reproductive health care decisions," Copeland said.

But there won't likely be two competing abortion issues on the ballot this fall. Shaw said her group will work with Copeland's to put one before voters in November.

Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, has said his heart tells him abortion rights advocates will end up putting the issue on the November 2024 ballot for several reasons.

“One there will be higher turnout because it’s a presidential election year. Senator Sherrod Brown is going to be up for reelection in the general election,” Gonidakis said.

Gonidakis said Brown, a Democrat, will be able to draw a lot of money to Ohio which would benefit abortion rights supporters as well.

Another thing that could make it to the ballot this November could also play a role on when an abortion issue goes before voters. If voters are asked to decide whether to raise the threshold for passing constitutional amendments to 60%, Copeland said that plays into her group's decision making.

“If we need to beat back a 60% threshold and pass a reproductive freedom ballot issue at the same time, we will," Copeland said.

Ohio lawmakers had wanted to pass the resolution to put the issue on the May ballot but the deadline for doing that has passed.

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Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.