COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An abortion rights initiative eyed for the November ballot can proceed as written, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The seven-member court unanimously denied a March request made by Margaret DeBlase and John Giroux, both members of the Cincinnati Right to Life. They had asked the court to strike down the Ohio Ballot Board’s decision to certify a citizen-led petition that would, if approved by voters, enshrine abortion rights up to the point of fetal viability into the state constitution.
In their complaint, DeBlase and Giroux argued the initiative’s language — authored by Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom — contains multiple amendments to the state constitution as opposed to a single issue required by law. Thus, the plaintiffs said the ballot board abused its discretion by greenlighting the initiative, whose provisions include protections for contraception, fertility treatment and health care that falls outside the scope of abortion.
The court, however, disagreed. The proposed initiative fulfills the only requirement outlined by state law for proposed amendments: that its provisions relate to a single general purpose — in this case, protecting reproductive rights, the court wrote in its ruling.
“Even if we accept (plaintiffs’) argument that abortion is a ‘unique’ act that is ‘inherently different’ from other reproductive decisions, the decision to obtain an abortion is still a reproductive decision,” the court wrote.
In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy agreed with her colleagues’ decision to rule against the plaintiffs’ request. She argued, however, that opinions authored by previous Ohio Supreme Court justices erroneously established a “single-subject rule” for constitutional amendments.
The Ohio Constitution does not expressly limit proposed constitutional amendments to a single subject, purpose or object, Kennedy wrote.
“The people did not impose any express limitation on the style or format that an amendment must take and neither this court nor the General Assembly has the power to restrict the people’s power to propose constitutional amendments by creating such a limit,” Kennedy wrote. “Rather, the ultimate decision on what the Constitution should say and how it should say it belongs to the people in exercising their right to ratify or reject an amendment at the ballot box.”
The initiative mimics a recently ratified constitutional amendment in Michigan and provides for the following:
- Every Ohioan has a right to make their own reproductive decisions, including contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage and abortion
- The State cannot burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with or discriminate against an Ohioan’s decision to exercise their reproductive rights
- Abortion can be prohibited after fetal viability, but it cannot be prohibited if a physician deems the procedure necessary to protect the patient’s life or health
- Fetal viability is defined as the point in a pregnancy when a physician deems the fetus has a “significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures” and is determined on a case-by-case basis
Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom has until July 5 to collect more than 400,000 signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.