(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — An amendment that would create a constitutional right to an abortion in Ohio came one step closer to a vote on Wednesday, as proponents of abortion access submitted nearly twice the number of signatures needed for the measure to appear on the November ballot.
The amendment’s backers filed over 700,000 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. Now, county officials have until July 20 to determine whether at least 413,487 of those signatures are valid, qualifying the amendment for a popular vote.
“Ohio voters are extremely pro-choice,” said Marcela Azevedo, president of the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights. “They do believe that abortion is a personal, family, medical decision, and they do not feel that it’s within the government’s right to file someone’s bodily autonomy.”
The margin of victory needed to make the amendment law will be determined next month, in an unusually-timed August election that has left elections officials scrambling. Republican state lawmakers set up the special election in a last-minute bid to raise the voter threshold needed to adopt a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60%.
“If any outside group believes its ideas are worthy of inclusion in Ohio’s constitution, then they should be able to earn the widespread public support that a 60% vote margin will require,” Ohio state Rep. Brian Stewart, a Republican, said in defense of the August election.
Abortion rights groups have blasted the special election as anti-democratic.
“They have tried everything under the sun to stop this,” Azevedo said. “These are extreme measures and, to be honest, desperate.”
Abortion is currently legal in Ohio through 22 weeks of pregnancy, or most of the way through the second trimester. After the overturning of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, Ohio lawmakers passed a “heartbeat bill” that banned doctors from performing abortions after cardiac activity was detected — which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — though the earliest restrictions are currently blocked in court.
The proposed amendment would establish a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits.”
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