Abortion rights supporters submit signatures for Ohio amendment

They gathered more than 700,000 signatures to qualify for November’s ballot.
Democratic voters were fired up after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Supporters of a proposed amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in Ohio’s state constitution said they had submitted more than 700,000 signatures to qualify for November’s ballot, setting up what may be the most significant showdown over abortion in the year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The campaign, spearheaded by an umbrella group known as Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, said it had gathered the signatures in just 12 weeks, from all 88 counties in Ohio.

They need 413,446 of those signatures to be deemed valid in order to qualify for the ballot. Ballot measure campaigns typically collect far more signatures than they need, in anticipation that some will be thrown out for various reasons.

“Today, we take a huge step forward in the fight for abortion access and reproductive freedom for all, to ensure that Ohioans and their families can make their own health care decisions without government interference,” Lauren Blauvelt and Kellie Copeland, who represent Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, said in a statement announcing the signatures.

The proposed amendment would establish a constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and continuing pregnancy. The state would be prohibited from interfering with those rights, and would not be allowed to ban abortion when a patient’s life or health are at stake.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s (R) office has until July 25 to determine whether the campaign submitted sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturning the Roe v. Wade precedent opened the door to a strict abortion ban, though that ban is currently blocked by a court injunction. The ballot measure would supersede any existing law by amending the state constitution.

But abortion rights proponents face a more immediate challenge, even as they prepare for a fall campaign: Ohio lawmakers, anticipating the abortion rights measure, are asking voters to approve a ballot question in August that would raise the threshold for amending the state constitution from a simple majority to a 60% supermajority.

LaRose, an opponent of abortion rights, has said publicly that the August measure — known as Issue 1 — is about blocking the abortion amendment.

“This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November,” LaRose told supporters at a Seneca County Republican fundraiser last month. 

Raising the threshold for adoption of a constitutional amendment would make passage substantially more challenging for abortion rights backers — but it would not be impossible. A poll conducted in late June by YouGov for Scripps News found 58% of Ohio voters in favor of the proposed amendment, while just 23% were opposed.

The same poll found Ohioans almost equally divided over whether to raise the threshold for adopting a constitutional amendment. In the survey, 38% said they supported increasing the threshold, while 37% said they were opposed.

Abortion rights proponents have scored a series of wins at the ballot box in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which held that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to an abortion.

In 2022, voters in California, Michigan and Vermont approved measures adding rights to an abortion to state constitutions. Measures explicitly barring the right to an abortion failed in two deep red states, Kansas and Kentucky, at the same time. 

Proponents are also seeking ballot measures related to abortion in Pennsylvania and Washington this year, and proposed amendments are circulating in Florida, Iowa and South Dakota ahead of next year’s presidential elections.