One year since Roe fell: From lawsuits to constitutional amendments in Ohio
In the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion, the fight over abortion has turned from the courts to the court of public opinion.
In the hours following the fall of Roe v. Wade, the Ohio Supreme Court lifted a hold on a law that banned abortion at the point fetal cardiac electronic activity could be detected, as early as six-weeks into a pregnancy. That near ban was in place in Ohio for 11 weeks while abortion rights advocates sought to overturn it.
A Hamilton County court put the six-week ban on hold last fall, and the state continues to appeal that ruling.
Since then, the efforts have shifted. Abortion rights advocates want to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to let voters decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. But before that can happen, Ohio voters will decide another measure, backed by abortion opponents, on a special August ballot that would, if approved, make it harder for that November amendment to pass.
Since April, groups that back abortion rights have been circulating petitions, trying to get the nearly 414,000 signatures from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties that they need before the July 5 deadline.
Dr. Marcela Azevedo is with the group Physicians for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups behind the ballot measure. She said thousands of volunteers are working on the petition signature gathering effort. The group is counting and verifying signatures now, but she couldn’t provide the number of signatures gathered right now.
“If we were to give you a number, that number is a different number in an hour. Our folks are working so diligently on this counting and verification, but we are really optimistic about where we are,” Azevedo said.
Azevedo is optimistic about the response her group has gotten and polling on the issue. And she said there’s a chance that the amendment might win a supermajority.
The threshold required for passage could change between now and then. Right now, it would win if it gets 50% plus one votes. But a proposed constitutional amendment on a special Aug. 8 ballot could raise that threshold to 60%.
Dr. Lauren Beene, also with the Physicians for Reproductive Rights, said many volunteers circulating petitions have been active in also letting voters know about the August election.
“A lot of our volunteers were carrying around with them voter absentee ballot applications and making sure people are registered in time for the August election,” Beene said.
On the other side of the issue, Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, has been going around the state to encourage voters who oppose abortion rights to take action, too.
“We have enacted the largest grass roots initiative in our state’s history for a two-pronged approach. One being the Aug. 8 election to protect our constitution and No. 2,, to focus on November, not knowing yet if they will qualify for the ballot but if they do, we’ll be ready,” Gonidakis said.
Gonidakis has spent a lot of time in churches and at community events.
“It’s going quite well in our churches across the state.In all 88 counties we have a presence and operation and we are working hard to win hearts and minds to ensure that in both August we are successful, as well as November,” Gonidakis said.
Meanwhile, county boards of elections are working hard to make sure they are ready for the August election that they hadn’t planned on months ago when Ohio lawmakers passed a bill that bans most August special elections. But majority Republican lawmakers at the Statehouse made an exception for this issue.
Military overseas voting starts on June 23. Early voting for all other registered Ohioans begins July 11.