Reproductive Rights Group Challenges Republican Rewrite of Reproductive Freedom  Amendment Ballot Language in Ohio

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Aug. 28, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and voters filed a lawsuit challenging the new misleading language for a reproductive freedom constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot for Ohioans this November. This lawsuit comes just days after the Republican-controlled Ohio Ballot Board approved a complete overhaul of the summary used to describe the amendment and adopted language drafted by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R). The plaintiffs allege that this new ballot language “aims improperly to mislead Ohioans.” 

Before voters head to the polls to vote on Issue 1, “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” Republicans are shamelessly attempting to subvert the will of voters in an effort to strip individuals of their reproductive freedom. In advance of Ohio’s November 2023 election, Republicans attempted to increase the threshold to pass a constitutional amendment from 50% to 60% of the vote, but voters overwhelmingly rejected this scheme earlier this month. 

The lawsuit filed today argues that the Republican-approved language is “incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading” and argues that the language violates both Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution.

The plaintiffs allege that the language adopted by the ballot board:

  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 summary is “misleadingly incomplete” because it fails to capture the full substance of the amendment and only mentions abortion even though the amendment also includes, but is not limited to reproductive decisions concerning contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy and miscarriage care.

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. The “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 complaint reads. 

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, rather than the summary. Alternatively, the plaintiffs ask for the court to order the ballot board to reconvene and adopt new language that “properly and lawfully” describes the amendment. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.