Timing of "Personhood" Amendment Crucial

Jun 10, 2013

Backers of a measure to give a fertilized egg the same rights as a person in Ohio are collecting signatures to put the issue before voters.  

Kabir Bhatia of member station WKSU in Kent reports.

About 40 anti-abortion advocates turned out in front of an abortion clinic this weekend on Pearl Road.
They support Personhood Ohio, which defines life as beginning at conception.  And they were rallying to try to boost the effort to get some 385,000 signatures needed by Independence Day to get the issue on this fall’s ballot.  Personhood Director Dr. Patrick Johnson says the group may have to wait till next fall, but is ready to make its case in either election.

PJ:  The odds are stacked against us.  So we’re clearly the underdogs.  And I like that.  Because God shows himself strong on behalf of underdogs in Scripture; we read it all the time.  So we’re gonna keep working, keep gathering signatures until we can protect these children under state law.

Personhood Ohio is similar to the Heartbeat Bill, which Tom Niehaus – then president of the Ohio Senate—kept from coming to a vote in that chamber last year. He said it would likely draw a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court.  That’s similar to what is happening in Arkansas, where a federal judge has temporarily blocked a law banning abortions after 12 weeks.

If Ohio passed the “personhood amendment,” it would have the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country. (Voters in Mississippi struck down a similar amendment in 2011.)  University of Akron political scientist Dave Cohen says complicating matters in Ohio is Gov. John Kasich’s bid for reelection in 2014. Cohen says sharing the ballot with one of the most wide-ranging anti-abortion measures in the nation is not something Kasich wants, just as he’d rather not deal with the aftermath of the hugely unpopular anti-union measure known as Senate Bill 5.

DC:  Right now, what he wants is to avoid any real controversial issues on the ballot, ones that could possibly galvanize the opposition.  He does not want a replay of some sort of legislation on the ballot like SB5.  Obviously, that was a big disaster for the governor.  When it comes to his reelection, right now things are going pretty well.  The Ohio economy is doing fairly well.  For him, he doesn’t want any issue that’s going to bring negative attention to Republicans or the governor as he goes for reelection.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis says passing pro-life legislation – whether voters do it or lawmakers – requires strategy.  And he says his group’s election season activities won’t change whether Kasich is on the ballot or not.

MG: Our organization will transcend politics and our position will remain the same Of course, we have a Political Action Committee and that will be re-engaged in 2014.  But any ballot initiative has no bearing on our decision to be engaged with an issue or not.

Gonidakis says he’s pleased by the governor’s pro-life stance.  Right to Life also favored Kasich’s proposed expansion of Medicaid this year, though Republicans in both the House and Senate stripped it out of the budget bill.