‘Unborn Child’ Ohio Ballot Wording Is a Win for Abortion Foes

  • Majority Republicans outvoted Democrats on state board
  • Board also approves language for marijuana ballot measure

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Abortion opponents got their way Thursday when a divided Ohio Ballot Board approved language voters will see this fall that repeats the phrase “unborn child” four times.

The ballot wording—drafted by the office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), the board’s chair—was adopted 3-2, with the three Republicans voting for it and two Democrats voting against it.

The word choices for the Nov. 7 ballot followed an expensive and unsuccessful effort to make it tougher to make any changes to the state constitution. Ahead of that proposal’s defeat, some proponents emphasized that its goal was to impede the abortion proposal.

Abortion Ballot Fight Ramps Up After Ohio Initiative Rejected

Last year, abortion-related measures were on the ballot in six states, and the side favoring access came out ahead in all of them, including Kansas and Kentucky. A state Supreme Court election this year in Wisconsin and the earlier Ohio initiative provided more evidence that abortion is an issue that motivates turnout.

An Ohio law banning abortions after cardiac activity can be detected is being challenged in court and was blocked by a county judge while the case is pending.

Rep. Elliot Forhan (D), one of the outvoted board members, called the language offered by LaRose “needlessly repetitive.”

“It’s an attempt to confuse voters,” he said, urging the board to instead give voters the full text of the proposed amendment.

State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R) said she supported the ballot language as a way to convey to voters that “should it pass, it is unequivocally true that access to painful late-term abortions will be written into Ohio’s constitution.”

The ballots will say that the state constitution would be changed to “always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health.”

The board on Thursday also unanimously approved, without discussion, the language voters will see when they decide whether to amend state law to legalize recreational marijuana.

In addition to being the state’s top election official, LaRose is a candidate for US Senate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Heisig in Ohio at eheisig@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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