Ohio Attorney General Throws Out ‘Aggravated Murder’ Abortion Ballot Initiative

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Ohio Attorney General Throws Out ‘Aggravated Murder’ Abortion Ballot Initiative

Michelle D. Anderson

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland last week responded to the ballot initiative, saying the law would punish women. “If passed, women and doctors would be imprisoned for any abortion, even one to save a woman’s life,” Copeland said.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) on Monday rejected a ballot initiative created to define abortion care as aggravated murder, saying the petitioners failed to submit the minimum number of valid signatures.

DeWine’s office in a statement and letter said the petitioners submitted 1,006 signatures, but only 842 of the required 1,000 minimum signatures were valid. The group could start over and resubmit the petition with new, valid signatures.

The review process began on September 2 after three Ohio residents submitted a ballot proposal and summary to the attorney general’s office to prohibit abortion of “all unborn human beings,” without exception, and to classify the medical practice as aggravated murder in Ohio.

The language of the four-page proposal stated the proposal would not “affect genuine contraception that acts solely by preventing the creation of a new human being.”

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The proposed amendment would not have affected “human ‘eggs’ or oocytes prior to the beginning of the life of a new human being,” nor would it affect “reproductive technology or IVF procedures,” according to the ballot language petitioners submitted.

The proposal defined an “unborn human” as an “individual organism” of humans from fertilization, whether fertilization occurs inside or outside of a human, until live birth.

The Columbus Dispatch identified the petitioners as Anthony Dipane, Laura Burton, and Dustin Paulson. Dipane told the Dispatch that the group relied on volunteers and had no affiliation with Ohio Right to Life or any other anti-choice group.

The group’s act launched the ten-day window by which the attorney general had to determine whether petitioners had submitted enough valid signatures and whether they had submitted a sufficient summary for the ballot, according to the state’s Ohio Revised Code.

Upon receiving the petition, DeWine’s office submitted the signatures to local boards for validation. DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney told Rewire in a phone interview that county boards of elections were still validating the submitted signatures as of Friday afternoon, a week after the petitioners submitted the anti-choice proposal.

The attorney general’s office counted the total signatures, which had been submitted on about 100 separate petitions, according to Cleveland.com.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland last week responded to the ballot initiative, saying the law would punish women.

“If passed, women and doctors would be imprisoned for any abortion, even one to save a woman’s life,” Copeland said.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the proposal would have blocked prescription birth control, emergency contraception, IUDs, and access to in-vitro fertilization.

DeWine would not have reviewed the language for constitutionality even if petitioners had met the threshold.

If the petitioners successfully resubmit their proposal, Ohio law would require them to collect signatures for each issue from registered voters in each of 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. The total signatures collected would need to equal 10 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election, as explained by Cleveland.com.

NARAL had compared the proposed initiative to Oklahoma’s Initiative Petition 406, an abortion prohibition amendment known as State Question 782.

That effort, which was set to go on the 2016 ballot, failed after the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the petition because the proposal would violate U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion.