COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Abortion access could be on the ballot this November as two abortion rights groups are working to get language approved for a ballot initiative to constitutionally protect the right to abortion in Ohio.
One of the groups is Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, co-founded by Dr. Lauren Beene.
“It’s not something we can wait on,” she said. “Not having access to abortion, healthcare, and everything related to it, it harms women. Women die.”
Beene said abortion should be legal up until the point at which a “fetus can survive outside the pregnant person,” which she said is around 22 to 24 weeks in a typical, healthy pregnancy.
“Far and away, the vast majority of pregnancy terminations occur much, much earlier,” Benne said. “But if their lungs aren’t developing, if their kidneys aren’t developing, if their brain isn’t developing, those are the kind of things that you don’t even know are happening until you’re between 18-20 weeks of pregnancy.”
To get the issue on the ballot, the group has to submit language to the attorney general’s office, then collect more than 400,000 signatures by July 5.
Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, which includes Planned Parenthood, is another group working to get the issue to the voters. Beene said they are working together to achieve the same goal.
But these efforts are being met with opposition.
“What we know is that Ohioans, even pro-choice Ohioans, reject late-term abortions,” President of Ohio Right to Life Mike Gonidakis said. “And if that’s what they’re going to put on the ballot, we will easily defeat that.”
Gonidakis said Right to Life and its allies are prepared to launch the “largest grassroots advocacy organization in the state’s history” and said it will have a campaign against the ballot initiative in all 88 Ohio counties.
“To enshrine in our constitution a right to an abortion means forever,” Gonidakis said. “When science changes and things come about, better technology, we can’t take it out of the constitution once it’s in there, or we have to do another ballot initiative.”
He said he believes these decisions should be debated and made at the Statehouse to give the law more flexibility as new things come about.
“At the statehouse, if we need to change a law, things change, you can do that,” Gonidakis said.
Beene said even in a non-presidential and non-midterm election year, she believes Ohioans will show up to the polls for this issue.
“In this not-politically-heavy year, people will have the opportunity to think about it more and not be swept up in the whirlwind of the presidential election year,” she said.
“At the end of the day, what Ohioans get to decide is, ‘Do you want late-term abortion in your state constitution?’ I believe the answer is no,” Gonidakis said.
In November, voters could also be deciding on several other issues like whether to raise the threshold to amend Ohio’s constitution and the legalization of recreational adult-use marijuana in the state.