Ohio Ballot Board approves abortion access amendment language amidst controversy

The Ohio Ballot Board has granted approval for the language of a fall measure that aims to establish abortion access as a fundamental right. However, the decision has been met with criticism, particularly from Democratic members who assert that the language is misleading and flawed.

The language was developed by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, an abortion opponent, and among the changes made was replacing the term “fetus” with “unborn child” in the ballot description. Critics have raised concerns over the potential for legal challenges due to the modified language.

The original language of the amendment seeks to ensure abortion access based on viability, when the fetus can survive outside the womb. It states that abortion might be prohibited after fetal viability, except when a treating physician deems the procedure necessary to safeguard the life or health of the pregnant individual.

However, LaRose’s version of the summary alters this description. It suggests that the amendment would “always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination,” the exception for life and health applies.

Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, a statewide coalition supporting abortion rights, criticized the summary as “propaganda.” She emphasized that the original wording was certified as fair and accurate by the state’s Republican attorney general, Dave Yost. She also highlighted that hundreds of thousands of Ohioans encountered the original wording when signing petitions to include the measure on the fall ballot.

The proposed amendment seeks to establish a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits.” It echoes language from a similar constitutional amendment in Michigan and sets restrictions on abortion after a fetus becomes viable outside the womb.

Despite criticism, LaRose defended the summary, noting that the complete text of the amendment would be accessible at polling locations and published in statewide newspapers.

The fall’s Issue 2 will involve a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, while the debate over Issue 1, the abortion access amendment, continues amidst divided perspectives.