Struggle for reproductive justice advances in Ohio


Ohio is one of many states whose legislatures rammed through harsh legislation denying abortion access after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. Under Ohio’s law, abortions are banned after six weeks of pregnancy.

Boxes holding some of the petitions containing 710,000+ signatures for amending the Ohio Constitution to enshrine the right to abortion access, delivered to the State House in Columbus, July 5, 2023.

But a Hamilton County judge put the law on hold on Sept. 14, 2022, in response to legal challenges. Abortions are currently being performed in Ohio, but the conservative-majority Ohio Supreme Court can decide to reinstate the ban.

However, on July 5, Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Protect Choice Ohio announced that they had collected over 710,000 signatures supporting an amendment to the state constitution enshrining access to abortion. This is well above the 413,000 signatures of registered voters needed to place the issue on the ballot.

This is a tremendous achievement, made possible by a grassroots campaign of hundreds of volunteer petitioners. “We know that we are going to win in November. We are poised to put this — put abortion rights — in the hands of the voters, and we’re excited to announce this first victory on that,” said Sri Thakkilapati, a founder of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. (NBC News, July 6)

The right-wing legislators who voted to deny abortion access came up with a nefarious scheme to disenfranchise the pro-reproductive justice majority: Issue 1. In a special election Aug. 8,  approved by the Ohio Supreme Court, voters will decide whether or not to amend the state constitution to require a 60% supermajority of voters to pass subsequent constitutional amendments. This supermajority would make it more difficult to pass the abortion access amendment, which is the goal of its backers.

But passing Issue 1 will not be so easy, with armies of phone bankers, door knockers and postcard writers making sure the public knows about the election and why the anti-democratic measure should be defeated. Labor unions are among the groups mobilizing their members to assist in this campaign.

Stronger than expected early voting suggests that Issue 1 might get trashed Aug. 8 — and then the right to abortion access will be legally protected after the November vote.

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