The pro-abortion rights movement in Ohio has gathered enough momentum to place a referendum on the ballot this coming November which could codify the right to abortion care in the state constitution—but advocates on Tuesday warned of a caveat which could make the amendment harder to pass unless rights advocates clear another hurdle next month.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that petitioners calling for the measure to be included on the ballot on November 7 collected more than 495,000 signatures in support of their effort, far surpassing the required 413,446 signatures.
The signatures were collected from abortion rights supporters in 55 counties, while only 44 counties are required by state law.
The campaign’s success means that voters in November will be asked if a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits” should be established in the Ohio Constitution; if passed, the amendment would permit abortion care in Ohio up to about 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“Today was an important victory for Ohio women,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters. “Out-of-touch politicians are relentlessly attacking women’s fundamental rights, inserting themselves into women’s personal, medical decisions and laying the groundwork for a total abortion ban in Ohio.”
Daniel Nichanian, editor-in-chief and founder of Bolts magazine, called the news “a potential game-changer for reproductive rights in Ohio.”
But Nichanian was among those who noted that rights advocates also need to win an electoral fight coming up on August 8, when a special election approved by the Ohio Supreme Court’s right-wing majority is set to take place.
In that election, voters will be asked whether the threshold needed to amend the state constitution via referendum should be raised from a simple majority to 60%.
A poll taken by Baldwin Wallace University last year found that 59% of Ohioans supported the abortion rights amendment that residents are now set to vote on in November.
According to Heartland Signal, early voter turnout in the August 8 special election has increased fivefold over last year’s August primary elections, with more than 116,000 people having cast their ballots in person and 38,000 having turned in absentee ballots.
Early voting in the state will continue until August 6 according to the secretary of state’s website.
“Ohio Republicans’ plan to limit abortion rights,” the progressive outlet tweeted, “may actually be supercharging pro-choice voters.”