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Ohio shows us the way in abortion activism

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abortion activism

It is not an understatement to say that anti-abortion legislation and rhetoric over the last year have been staggering. Anti-abortion legislators have shown no shame in thwarting the pro-choice preferences of their constituents in favor of Christian nationalist policies. That’s why I am thrilled with the recent success of abortion advocates in Ohio.

Last year, Republicans in that state determined that August special elections were too costly for the comparatively low voter turnout. However, this past spring the Ohio GOP suddenly changed tune. In a shocking turnaround, Senate Republicans decided to expand the special election with $20 million funding. On the ballot is a measure that would increase the threshold for the approval of a constitutional amendment from 50 percent to 60 percent. Should that ballot measure get through, it would make it increasingly difficult for proponents to pass a proposed amendment that would enshrine abortion rights intended for the November ballot. By directly attacking voter rights, the Ohio GOP has indirectly attacked abortion rights, since the fact is that abortion is supported across party lines in the state. After all, one poll found that 53 percent of Ohioans want the government to support abortion compared to 39 percent who want the government to restrict abortion.

Instead of sitting on their hands, abortion rights advocates in Ohio got to work. Thanks to groups like the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, more than 710,000 signatures in over 400 boxes have been delivered to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. These signatures were collected at farmers markets and signing events throughout the state. Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, noted: “Those (402) boxes are filled with hope, and love, and freedom of bodily autonomy … of being able to say, ‘We decide what happens to us.’”

Copeland’s statement is not hyperbolic. The amendment specifically states that every person in Ohio has the 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 government has until July 25 to verify that the required number of signatures, approximately 413,000, are legitimate. Should they be approved, Ohioans will be able to vote in November to imbue abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution. Not surprisingly, anti-abortion groups are displeased with this step forward. Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, a group that distributes anti-abortion materials to churches, schools, colleges and community groups, surmised that “as goes Ohio, so goes the rest of the nation.”

I actually agree with Gonidakis. His statement acknowledges the truth: that voters want abortion to be legal and that the only organized opposition to abortion is religious. I hope that the incredible work of abortion advocates in Ohio is a harbinger for more constitutional amendments to protect abortion. As secularists, we can refer to the grassroots activism in the Buckeye State as a model for strategizing and coalition-building in the face of tyrannical threats to democracy.

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