State of Ohio

Ohio 2023 Reproductive Freedom Amendment Ballot Language Challenge

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights v. Ohio Ballot Board

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and voters against the Ohio Ballot Board, Ohio Ballot Board Members and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) challenging the language adopted by the Ohio Ballot Board for a citizen-led abortion rights amendment that would preserve the right to reproductive freedom into the Ohio Constitution. On Aug. 24, the Republican-controlled Ohio Ballot Board approved new summary language for the amendment that the plaintiffs allege “aims improperly to mislead Ohioans.”  The plaintiffs allege that the Ohio Ballot Board’s adopted language: 

  1. Incorrectly states that the amendment would restrict private rather than state action;
  2. Mischaracterizes the right the amendment would give Ohioans and
  3. Falsely claims the amendment would prevent a pregnant person from making their own reproductive decisions.

In addition, the plaintiffs argue that the ballot language is “misleadingly incomplete” because it fails to capture the full substance of the amendment and only names abortion even though the amendment’s protections extend, but are not limited to reproductive decisions concerning: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.

The plaintiffs claim that the ballot language’s word choice “serves to sway voters against the Amendment” by, for example, including the term “unborn child” despite the term appearing nowhere in the ballot measure. They also assert that “the ballot language’s length and the context in which it was drafted confirm that the above defects are no accident but are, instead, part of a deliberate attempt to mislead and sway voters.”

The plaintiffs allege that the Republican-approved language is “incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading” and argue that the language violates both Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution. The plaintiffs request that the Ohio Supreme Court order the Ohio Ballot Board to reconvene and adopt the full text of the amendment as the ballot language. Alternatively, the plaintiffs ask for the court to order the Ohio Ballot Board to reconvene and adopt new language that “properly and lawfully” describes the amendment.

On Sept. 19, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down a narrow part of the summary language. In particular, the court held that the term “citizens of the State” in the ballot language is misleading and ordered the Ohio Ballot Board to eliminate the words “citizens of” before the word “state” in order to “accurately describe[] that the proposed amendment regulates actions of the ‘State.”

Case Documents

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