Ohio Supreme Court orders slight change in wording on reproductive rights ballot issue
The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered a change in the language that voters will see on the reproductive rights amendment known as Issue 1 on this fall's ballot. But it's not what the pro-Issue 1 side had wanted when it sued over the language approved by the Republican-dominated ballot board.
The court's three Democrats — Justices Jennifer Brunner, Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart — were joined by Republican Justice Pat Fischer in ordering the Ohio Ballot Board to change the wording on what entity can limit abortions after viability. The language was written by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office and approved by Republicans on the ballot board. It states that the amendment would "only allow the citizens of the State of Ohio to prohibit an abortion after an unborn child is determined by a pregnant woman's treating physician to be viable and only if the physician does not consider the abortion necessary to protect the pregnant woman's life or health."
The court ordered language to read "the state of Ohio" and not "the citizens of the state of Ohio," which they say could be misleading.
But the court did not grant the request to change "unborn child" to "fetus." The medical term "fetus" appears once in the amendment. The term "unborn child" appears four times in the language approved by the ballot board.
The justices also did not order the ballot board to add in that the amendment includes a guarantee of access to contraception, fertility treatment and miscarriage care. The ballot board's language mentions abortion but not those other medical procedures and treatments.
The pro-Issue 1 side says the language is still misleading, while the groups opposing Issue 1 are pleased with the decision.
Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights spokesperson Lauren Blauvelt said in a statement: "This should have been simple, but the Ohio Ballot Board tried to mislead voters yet again. Issue 1 is clearly and concisely written to protect Ohioans' right to make our own personal health care decisions about contraception, pregnancy, and abortion, free from government interference. The actual amendment language communicates that right clearly and without distortion."
Protect Women Ohio, which is arguing against Issue 1, said in a statement: "We applaud the Ohio Supreme Court for allowing ballot language that accurately reflects the impact of Issue 1 to move forward. With this language, voters will understand that the amendment's many intentional gray areas will legalize painful, late-term abortion on demand up until birth and strip parents' of their rights."
The Ohio Supreme Court also ordered the ballot board to rewrite some of the language it approved for Issue 1, the sole question in the Aug. 8 special election. That amendment would have required 60% voter approval for future amendments. Opponents had brought a lawsuit over language approved by Republicans on the board, who were on record as supporting Issue 1 in that election.