Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio

Ohio Democratic lawmakers propose a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights

Democrats announce a constitutional amendment plan at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday.
Jo Ingles

Democratic members of the Ohio House and Senate say about two-thirds of Ohioans agree women themselves should have the choice to decide whether to get an abortion. Yet they say Republicans, who dominate the Ohio Legislature by about a two-thirds majority in both chambers, have passed abortion restrictions in recent years and could pass more legislation to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade next month.

Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) said she knows how it feels to not have agency over your own body since she was sexually abused as a child. She said she wants pregnant people in Ohio to be able to make their own reproductive choices.

"Republicans in this statehouse want to punish women and criminalize health care. When it comes to infringing on a woman or a pregnant person's right to choose in overturning Roe v. Wade, I will not allow our reproductive freedoms to be dismantled," Miranda said.

Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said abortion should be safe and accessible and that pregnant people are the ones who should make the decision whether to have an abortion.

"Pregnancy is a personal, private decision that should not require the permission of any politician," Antonio said.

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) said Republicans have made it their top priority to force extreme views representing a minority of Ohioans on the majority.

"I'm eight years short of my medical degree, but this is 50 years short of common sense," Lepore-Hagan said.

When asked whether it would be possible to get three-fifths of the legislature to approve this plan to put it on the ballot directly, Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) didn't mince words.

"We are not naive enough to believe that the Republican-controlled legislature will pass this proposal, in my opinion. But what I do believe it will do is to allow people in the state of Ohio to voice their opinion in the committee process to show all of us, not just legislators, but those of us across the state that this is something, as the polls have shown, that the majority of Ohioans want," Williams said.

The Democrats are not saying specifically what they will do if the legislature doesn't pass the initiated statute. But the process goes to a citizens referendum. That means supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment would have to collect more than 250,000 valid petition signatures to put it before voters. And, it would take time to collect those signatures so that wouldn't happen this year.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right To Life, will fight this proposed amendment saying it appears Democratic politicians want to insert abortion on demand into the constitution. He said it is radical because it will allow late-term abortions, something that is currently illegal in Ohio.

"This is barbaric, and we are extremely confident that the voters of Ohio, both pro-life and pro-choice will defeat this inhumane proposal. At best, this is a gimmick as these Democrats know full well that the likelihood of the legislature approving such nonsense is zero. Shame on these politicians for suggesting such a horrific idea," Gonidakis said.

Details from the Democratic proposal are still pending since the lawmakers have yet to officially introduce the language.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.