COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Two abortion rights coalitions said Thursday they will combine efforts and target the November 2023 general election for a ballot initiative that would let voters decide on whether to enshrine abortion in Ohio’s constitution.
The two campaigns — Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Protect Choice Ohio — first announced unconnected plans on the same day in mid-December to push ahead with the process for a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment. At the time, they cited diverging intended timelines as a reason for not working together.
But as of Thursday, both groups now plan to work in tandem to file ballot language with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost that will mimic a recently-ratified constitutional amendment in Michigan, according to a news release. Michiganders voted 56.66% to 43.34% on that amendment in November 2022.
“This campaign puts the power back in the hands of the people of Ohio, so everyone has the freedom to prevent, continue, or end a pregnancy should they decide,” said Lauren Blauvelt, the vice president of government affairs and public advocacy for Planned Parenthood Ohio.
Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom includes eight organizations:
- The ACLU of Ohio
- Abortion Fund Ohio
- New Voices for Reproductive Justice
- Ohio Women’s Alliance
- Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio
- Pro-Choice Ohio
- Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
Protect Choice Ohio is led by a collective of doctors called Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights.
Some of the initial pauses in the process for abortion rights advocates stemmed from a Republican-led proposal, which has stalled twice, that would require 60% — rather than 50% — of the vote for constitutional amendments to pass. Lawmakers missed their deadline in early February for that to be on the May ballot.
In a statement Thursday, Greater Columbus Right to Life Executive Director Beth Vanderkooi called the abortion rights proposal a “disingenuous effort” that “Ohioans won’t be fooled by.” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a December interview with NBC4 that anti-abortion organizations across the state would publicly advocate heavily against it.
“We will lead and orchestrate the largest grassroots initiative, mark my words, in Ohio’s history to defeat whatever it is they put on the ballot,” Gonidakis said.
Volunteers — recruited by both abortion rights campaigns — are “eager to begin circulating petitions in communities across the state,” according to the news release. When language is submitted, reviewed, and greenlit by the attorney general, those volunteers will then begin to circulate petitions.