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Government & Politics

Ohio Attorney General Rejects Proposal to Categorize Abortions as Aggravated Murder

Photo of abortion rights protestors
MALLORY BENEDICT
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PBS NEWSHOUR CC FLICKR

A constitutional amendment creating a total ban on abortion in Ohio has been rejected by the state attorney general. But the people behind the proposal say they are not done fighting.

The proposed constitutional amendment was created by a trio of Northeast Ohioans – Laura Burton of Cleveland, Anthony DiPane of Monroe Falls in Summit County and Dustin Paulson of Strasburg in Tuscarawas County.

Paulson is a landscaper and a youth pastor, and he says he, Burton and DiPane are not working with any established groups such as Ohio Right to Life – which the state’s leading pro-life group confirms.

The proposal is severe – it seeks to ban abortion under any circumstance and to classify it as aggravated murder. And Paulson makes it clear that doctors aren’t the only ones who would face prosecution and lifetime prison sentences under the amendment – women who have the procedure would as well.

“Doctors are not going around just finding women and giving them abortions against their will. Women are going in and seeking an abortion because, for whatever reason in their life, they want to terminate their baby’s life. They say ‘terminate the pregnancy’, but really, they’re terminating a living human being’s life,” Paulson said.

NARAL/Pro Choice Ohio has already blasted the proposal, saying it is unconstitutional, and could also affect contraceptives such as prescription birth control and in vitro fertilization.

That’s by design, says Paulson. He says the amendment would ban what he calls abortifacient birth control and abortive IVF practices. Paulson says he’s shopped this proposal around to state lawmakers, and has been told that it has little chance of passing in the Legislature or being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“So they’ve all put it off on someone else to do it. Really, it comes down to us having to do it ourselves because the people that we elected to do this, who said that they were against abortion, will not defy the Supreme Court in their unjust ruling of Roe v. Wade and those that have followed.”

For now, the proposal has been halted.  Attorney General Mike DeWine did not rule on the language in the amendment, but said the three backers only turned in 842 of the thousand valid signatures they needed to proceed to put it before voters.

Paulson says the group knows they have to start all over and get that initial 1,000 signatures, and then the 300,000 they’d need to put it before voters. But he says he and the other activists – who he calls abolitionists – are committed.

“Quitting is not an option. We’re not going to stop this. We’re going to keep pushing for this to stick. So the Attorney General and the Secretary of State and the boards of elections, they better get used to us coming back again and again and again. We’re not going to stop on this.”

The Ohio proposal is similar to an amendment that the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected in March on constitutional grounds.

Another of the backers, Anthony DiPane, says while his group isn’t part of an organized action, other activists around the country are trying similar amendments in their states.