COLUMBUS, OH — MAY 14: Hundreds gather at a rally to support abortion rights less than two weeks after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed a likely reversal of Roe v. Wade, May 14, 2022, at the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes)

BY: SUSAN TEBBEN Ohio Capital Journal

As abortion rights groups prepare to collect the amount of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, anti-abortion rights groups may have shed light on statements they plan to use against the initiative.

In three separate press releases sent by anti-abortion groups after the Ohio Attorney General approved proposed amendment language, the issue of parental rights came out in strikingly similar fashion as they spoke out against the measure.

“If passed, it would cancel parental rights and measures in place to protect young girls; basic health and safety protections for women would be wiped out,” Ohio Right to Life CEO Peter Range was quoted as saying in a Thursday statement.

“If passed, this amendment would cancel parental rights and measures in place to protect young girls; basic health and safety protections for women would be wiped out,” read a statement attributed to Mark Harrington, president of Created Equal.

“It completely abolishes current Ohio law guaranteeing parental involvement before any abortion is performed on their minor daughter,” said religious lobby Center for Christian Virtue’s Ruth Edmonds, also in an email statement.

The summary and proposed amendment approved by the Ohio AG does not mention minors or parental consent among the issues to be changed in Article I of the Ohio Constitution.

“Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion,” the first part of the proposal states.

The amendment would bar the state from doing anything to “directly or indirectly burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or a person … unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.”

The anti-abortion groups did not specify how they came to the conclusion that parental consent was in danger with the proposed amendment.

The issue could stem from a long-standing legal option called judicial bypass, in which a minor can get a judge to sign off on an abortion if the judge deems the minor to be “sufficiently mature and well enough informed to decide intelligently ” to consent to an abortion.

The Ohio Supreme Court rules on judicial bypass went into effect in 2015.

Yost’s two cents

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost threw his opinion in the mix in a notification to attorneys that the amendment summary language was approved on March 2. Yost emphasized his statutory duty to objectively review ballot initiatives, all while mentioning his personal views, publicly known to be against abortion.

“I cannot base my determination on the wisdom or folly of a proposed amendment as a matter of public policy,” Yost wrote.

The attorney general continued his letter with paragraphs about the rule of law and requirements that attorneys general use “a narrow law to make a decision about the truthfulness of a summary.”

“In this matter, I am constrained by a duty to rule upon a narrow question, not to use the authority of my office to effect a good policy, or to impede a bad one,” the letter stated.

The statements were abnormal for a certification statement coming out of Yost’s office. Since 2020, 12 initiative petitions (some of which were resubmissions) have been certified by the AG’s office, with issues ranging from medical rights, marijuana regulation, elections, and wage increases.

None of the other certifications stretching back to 2020 included mentions of Yost’s personal opinion on the matter, or examinations of the attorney general’s duties. Those certifications were one-page approvals, specifying the Ohio Revised Code articles relevant to petition certification and a short certification statement.

In concluding the letter affirming the certification of the abortion rights petition, Yost said included another warning to petition creators.

“Indeed, there are significant problems with the proposed amendment, and if adopted it will not end the long-running litigation on this topic, but simply transform it,” he wrote.

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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