Ohio Ballot Board Requests State Supreme Court to Dismiss Abortion Amendment Lawsuit

The Ohio Ballot Board requested that the Ohio Supreme Court dismiss a lawsuit claiming that it erred in a decision to advance a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize abortion throughout the state.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wrote a brief on behalf of the ballot board saying that the relators “fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” and the relators “do not have a clear legal right to the relief sought.” Additionally, the Ohio Ballot Board requested that the judge dismiss the relators’ claims.

According to the lawsuit, the Ohio Ballot Board erred when it decided that the proposed amendment contained only one issue when it contained two or more. A proposal with more than one amendment must be divided into separate issues under Ohio law.

Cincinnati -area attorney Curt Hartman represents the relators Margaret DeBlase of Montgomery County and John Giroux of Hamilton County.

On March 13th, the ballot board, a bipartisan group of elected officials and one appointed member, led by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, decided that the proposed constitutional amendment by the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, a coalition of radical proabortion activists that includes Planned Parenthood, Pro-Choice Ohio, the Abortion Fund of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, along with the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, only contained one amendment.

The constitutional amendment proposal would add a Section 22 to Article 1 of the state constitution. The proposal would remove Ohio’s parental notification legislation when a minor wants an abortion and the requirement that abortionists adhere to fundamental hospital health and safety standards. The proposal also aims to permit abortions after babies have heartbeats and can feel pain.

Although the Republicans on the board personally opposed the contents of the amendment, the sole purpose of the Ballot Board was to decide whether the proposal incorporated one or more constitutional amendments, not to debate the merits of the issue.

Abortion, according to DeBlase and Giroux, is distinct from other reproductive issues. They only claim there are more than one constitutional amendments in the proposal; they dont specify how many in their request.

They contend that while some of the proposed activities would create a constitutional right to an individual abortion, others are concerned with “the interests and rights of a third party, i.e., the unborn child.”

Yost referenced two laws that outline the protracted and complicated procedure for citizens to get an amendment on the ballot, a process that begins with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and continues through the Ballot Board and other levels.

“(The) Ballot Board admits that they complied with their statutory requirement to determine if the preliminary initiative petition contained only one proposed constitutional amendment,” Yost wrote.

He also noted that parts of Article II, Sections 1 and 1a of the Ohio Constitution state that individuals can propose amendments to the state Constitution.

Another claim made in the complaint is that there was no discussion when the board gathered to discuss the amendment. Before asking for a vote, LaRose requested a debate, but none occurred.

State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) was the only one who spoke saying that although the proposal does contain only one constitutional amendment she is pro-life and “horrified about putting this into the constitution.”

According to Cincinnati Right to Life, Ohio cannot allow special interest groups to circumvent the law or mislead Ohio voters.

“This Mandamus action establishes that Ohio law must be followed and that no special interest can mislead Ohio voters when trying to place such a drastically radical initiative on the ballot,” Cincinnati Right to Life said.

If DeBlase and Giroux succeed in convincing the Supreme Court of their arguments, abortion activists would need to get 413,000 signatures from valid registered voters for each proposal to get on the ballot in November, instead of 413,000 signatures for one proposal, which abortion activists are trying to collect by July 5th.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]





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