Ohio Supreme Court holds ‘unborn child’ wording can remain as part of abortion ballot language

By Dave Andrusko

On Tuesday, on a 3-2 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the term “unborn child” will remain in the ballot language for a November 7 vote on whether to enshrine abortion in the state’s constitution.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and five petitioners sued the Ohio Ballot Board over wording that substituted “unborn child” for the term “fetus.” The finalized language also says the amendment would “always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability” if a doctor deems an abortion necessary to protect a “pregnant woman’s life or health.” The plaintiffs insisted voters be shown the entirety of the proposed amendment when they enter the ballot box rather than a summary.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose had reminded voters that the full text of the amendment — which differs from the ballot language — will be readily available for public viewing. “[The text] is presented on a poster in the polling location, and will be published in newspapers throughout the state and available through a whole variety of publications as well,” LaRose said.

The state Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ argument that the ballot’s language “introduces an ethical judgment,” adding that it “does not establish that the ballot board’s language constitutes improper persuasion.”

The office of the Secretary of State said they were “pleased” by the court’s ruling on “Issue 1.”

“By rejecting special interest attempts to substitute their own carefully crafted and poll tested language for that of the ballot board, they have ensured Ohio voters will have a full and accurate understanding of the proposed measure when they go to cast their ballots,” said Mary Cianciolo, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, according to NBC News’s Megan Lebowitz and Inyoung Choi.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the court got it right, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer that “Ohioans have a crystal clear picture now of this dangerous ballot initiative and what it would do to unborn children.”

The court ordered the five-member ballot board to replace “citizens of the state of Ohio” with the “state of Ohio” when describing who can limit abortion access,” Jessie Balmert reported. “Justice Pat Fischer, a Republican, joined with the court’s three Democrats on that point.”

“We conclude that the term ‘citizens of the State’ is misleading in that it suggests to the average voter that the proposed amendment would restrict the actions of individual citizens instead of the government.”

Opponents of “Issue One” include Ohio Right to Life. “The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and others are spending millions of dollars attempting to enshrine abortion-until-birth, with zero restrictions, into Ohio’s constitution this fall,” according to NRLC’s state affiliate. “The seriousness of this ballot initiative cannot be overstated. If this is passed, Ohio’s legislature could not pass any future laws to protect the preborn. The abortion issue would be ripped out of our hands permanently.”