COLUMBUS, OH — In a demonstration of overwhelming grassroots support, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the non-partisan umbrella organization that is leading the effort to enshrine reproductive rights and abortion access in the Ohio Constitution, today submitted the signatures required to place The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety Amendment on the 2023 General Election ballot to the Ohio Secretary of State. The signatures were collected over the course of approximately 12 weeks and secured in all 88 Ohio counties.
Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, the organizations that formed OURR, filed the constitutional amendment language and summary with the Ohio Attorney General in February, and by March 13 had received a green light from the Ohio Ballot Board to begin signature collection. These coalitions originally launched the statewide ballot campaign in response to the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, leading to the immediate implementation of a near total ban on abortion in Ohio that had been blocked by a federal court since 2019.
Implementation of the extreme ban, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest and criminalizes the practice of medicine, ignited a health care crisis that endangered women, children, and families across the state. Many patients experiencing troubled pregnancies were denied care, forced to search for days, or leave the state in order to access appropriate treatment. The law, currently suspended by a state court injunction, could be reinstated at any time by the Ohio Supreme Court.
“This is a historic day for Ohio and for reproductive freedom. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for this herculean grassroots effort to ensure patients and doctors, not government extremists, are in control of making private medical decisions. Fortunately, the Ohio Constitution gives us the ability to take this popular issue directly to the people,” said Lauren Blauvelt and Kellie Copeland of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. “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.”
“Our campaign to enshrine reproductive freedom and abortion access in the Ohio Constitution began on July 7, 2022, when an open letter to patients signed by 1,000 physicians who were appalled and frustrated by the horrific events that were occurring in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and operating suites across the state every day appeared in the Columbus Dispatch,” OPRR co-founders Dr. Lauren Beene and Dr. Marcela Azevedo said. “Over the past year, support for the amendment has grown exponentially thanks to our partners at ORF, the thousands of volunteers who gathered signatures in communities across the state, and the hundreds of thousands of people who added their names to our petitions. Today, the message we and they are sending is loud and clear: ‘let the people decide.’”
Now that the petitions have been filed, the Ohio Secretary of State must immediately separate the part-petitions by county and transmit them to the appropriate boards of elections for verification. The standards for verification include whether each signer is registered to vote in the county, whether the signatures are genuine, whether any person signed more than once, and whether the petition papers include all of the required information, including the circulator’s statement. The Secretary of State must determine the sufficiency of the petitions by the 105th day before election day: July 25, 2023.
If an initiative petition does not have enough valid signatures, the sponsoring committee is granted an additional ten days to file a supplementary petition with signatures of electors who did not sign the original petition. The committee may collect those signatures only during that ten-day period. The Secretary of State must determine the sufficiency of those additional signatures by the 65th day before election day.