Abortion rights advocates will ask Ohio Supreme Court to rule on amendment’s ‘deceptive’ summary

By: - August 28, 2023 6:34 pm

“Gavel,” a sculpture by Andrew F. Scott, outside the Supreme Court of Ohio in Columbus. Sam Howzit/Creative Commons

The group supporting a constitutional amendment on reproductive rights will take its arguments against a “deceptive” summary approved and written by the Ohio Ballot Board to the state’s highest court.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights announced Monday afternoon that it plans to file a lawsuit Monday asking the Ohio Supreme Court either to order the ballot board to use the full text of the amendment on ballots this November, or to “correct blatant inaccuracies.”

“The summary that was adopted by the Ballot Board is intentionally misleading and fails to meet the standards required by Ohio law,” said OURR’s Lauren Blauvelt in a statement announcing the move.

The board met on Aug. 24 to consider what language would show up on the ballot with regard to Issue 1, the reproductive rights amendment, and Issue 2, with regard to recreational marijuana.

During the meeting, no testimony was presented on the reproductive rights amendment, but the board spent some time debating a summary written by “staff,” according to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (also the chair of the ballot board), though he also said he “worked extensively on drafting this.”

The summary makes changes abortions rights advocates say alter the language in a biased way, such as using “unborn child” rather than the medically accurate term “fetus,” and changing “pregnant patient” to “pregnant woman.”

It also removes a list of procedures and medical conditions, like miscarriages and fertility treatments, in which abortion and reproductive care is used.

The two Democrats on the ballot board, state Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, and state Rep. Elliot Forhan, D-South Euclid, stood in opposition to the summary language, pushing for the use of the full text, as had been requested by the abortion rights groups prior to the meeting.

However, state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, spoke out against the amendment as she conceded that the ballot board was not present to debate the merits of the amendment.

She called the amendment “dangerous” and pledged to fight “tirelessly” against it.

The summary language passed on a vote of 3-2.

“The Ballot Board’s members adopted politicized, distorted language for the amendment, exploiting their authority in a last ditch effort to deceive and confuse Ohio voters ahead of the November vote on reproductive freedom,” Blauvelt said in the lawsuit statement.

Ohio Right to Life head Mike Gonidakis, who supported the ballot board summary when it was adopted, said he expects the court to reject the legal challenge.

“Planned Parenthood is obviously worried that Ohioans are realizing that the language is dangerous and a bridge (too) far for even pro-choice women,” Gonidakis said, mirroring comments Gavarone gave during the ballot board meeting.

This article is republished from Ohio Capital Journal, part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben, a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal, is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.