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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

How Protecting Ohio’s Constitution May Empower Other States to Protect Preborn Lives

Allie Frazier  | 01 June 2023

On May 10, 2023, the Ohio House of Representatives passed Senate Joint Resolution 2 after over an hour of fierce debate and civil unrest both inside and outside of the House chambers.[1] This hotly contested resolution, brought forth by pro-life State Senators Rob McColley and Theresa Gavarone, proposed allowing Ohioans to vote on the topic of raising the threshold to amend Ohio’s constitution to 60% of the vote.[2] Before SJR 2’s proposal, Ohio’s unusual rule allowing a simple majority to amend the state’s constitution left Ohio’s founding document vulnerable to manipulation by out-of-state special interest groups.[3] Giving Ohio voters an opportunity to clarify the sanctity of their state constitution, would not only bring Ohio in step with the majority of U.S. states’ constitutional policy, it could also spare us from the abortion industry’s multi-million dollar campaign to establish a right to abortion in that document. While examining the challenges that the pro-life movement faces in our now state-centric fight to protect life, it may prove fruitful to explore Ohio’s push for a “60/40 rule,” as a potential strategy moving forward.

 

Before realizing the specific impact the 60/40 rule may have on ballot initiatives in other states, it is helpful to detail the requirements for amending those states’ constitutions. Out of the 50 U.S. states, only 18 allow citizen-led ballot initiatives.[4] Of those 18, only nine require a simple majority to pass constitutional amendments.[5] These frighteningly low thresholds may put these states’ constitutions, like Ohio’s, at risk of tampering by pro-abortion slush funds. Implementing legislation similar to SJR 2 comprises a viable asset for pro-life advocates, who may have legislative majorities at their disposal but face an increasingly complicated ground game due to media bias and limited funding.

 

The financial disparity present in nearly every ballot initiative fight has proven a significant roadblock to pro-life efforts Post-Roe. In Michigan for example, proponents of Proposition 3, which ultimately wrote a right to abortion into the state’s constitution, raised nearly $44 million dollars to pass their extreme abortion amendment. Their donors included an array of out-of-state elites including Michael Bloomberg, Steven Spielberg, and Sam Bankman-Fried, a former crypto-currency mogul now under indictment for massive fraud. [6][7] By contrast, Citizens to Support Mi Women and Children, Right to Life of Michigan’s anti-amendment PAC, raised just short of $17 million. Most financial support for the pro-life PAC came from inside the state and comprised primarily donations from non-profits, churches, and individual Michiganders.[8] This pattern of giving also presented itself during Kentucky’s fight to amend its commonwealth’s constitution to state explicitly that it contained no right to abortion.[9] As in Michigan, Kentuckian pro-life forces suffered a heartbreaking loss here, largely due to fundraising hurdles.  Without access to the rich cash flow of Hollywood celebrities, the pro-life movement must work smarter, not harder, for victories now won and lost on the state level.

 

Raising the bar for amending a state’s constitution from 50% plus one vote to 60% of the vote could prove a key tactic in the pro-life movement’s playbook. Although statistics suggest that the implementation of the 60/40 threshold for constitutional amendments may only secure victories in states not already deeply blue, those victories are by no means unnecessary. With a 60/40 threshold to clear, Michigan’s Proposition 3, which passed by a margin of 56.7% to 43.3%, could have been defeated.[10] Granted, it is speculative to assume that the 60/40 rule could have been implemented in Michigan as easily as in Ohio, but it is significantly less so to assert that an enacted 60/40 rule could have made all the difference for Michigan’s courageous fight against Proposition 3. 

 

With these statistics and setbacks in mind, Ohio is eager to stop the pro-abortion movement’s momentum in the Midwest. Our constitution is living proof that when given the chance, powerful lobbies and special interest groups will use their financial leverage to literally rewrite founding documents. By way of an example, the Constitution of the United States, which requires a two-thirds majority of both the U.S. House and Senate, followed by a three-fourths majority of state legislatures to amend, consists of a little over 7,000 words.[11][12] Conversely, Ohio’s state constitution, easily amended with a signature petition and simple majority vote, currently comprises a little over 67,000 words.[13][14] One amendment to Ohio’s constitution passed in 2009, approved the construction of multiple casinos across Ohio. Another amendment, foiled only by its mastermind’s federal indictment for bribery schemes, sought to extend the length of his Ohio House Speakership.[15] Such dubiously motivated changes are in lock-step with pro-abortion efforts to add a right to abortion into Ohio’s constitution.

 

Unsurprisingly, Ohio’s abortion industry, along with their allies at the ACLU, strongly oppose the constitutional protection offered by SJR 2.[16] Without a right to abortion inserted into the state constitution, and with an Ohio Supreme Court likely to uphold Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, the abortion industry’s business stateside could see a drop of  50-60% in the near future, threatening their ability to turn a profit.[17] However, with a low amendment threshold enabling them to write their business model into Ohio’s constitution, victory is within reach. Raising that threshold to 60% could mean forfeiting that opportunity. In a red-leaning state like Ohio, the abortion lobby may be able to manipulate 50% of the population plus one voter, but swaying an additional 10% of Ohioans could prove difficult. But that is not the only protection for Ohio’s Constitution that SJR 2 offers.

 

Previously, signatures for Ohio’s ballot initiative petition process were only required to be gathered from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties.[18] SJR 2 raises that bar to all 88, stating that “except that upon an initiative petition proposing an amendment to the constitution, it shall be necessary to file from each county of the state petitions bearing the signatures of not less than five percent of the electors of the county.”[19] The majority of Ohio’s 88 counties vote red, with a few deep blue pockets in Ohio’s several mid-sized cities.[20] For Ohio’s pro-life movement, ensuring every counties’ voice is heard could prove critical. Although this change would not affect Ohio’s current ballot initiative fight, given that the 88-county requirement only applies to petitions filed after January 1, 2024, it may prove an invaluable safeguard in the future.[21]

 

If the abortion industry has its way, countless state constitutions will be rewritten in their own deathly image. In Ohio, these efforts are already underway. The disturbance created by pro-abortion rioters during the house floor discussion of SJR 2 underlined how threatening constitutional integrity is to the abortion industry.[22] Although an August 8, 2023, special election on SJR 2 will ultimately determine whether Ohioans are willing to take a stand to protect their state’s guiding document, Ohio’s pro-life movement is equipped for the battle ahead.[23] It is our sincere hope that a victory in the Buckeye state may serve to empower other pro-life states actively seeking new avenues to protect women and preborn babies within their borders. The pursuit of morals, not money, should inspire our states’ guiding documents. By holding proposed changes to our state constitutions to a higher, more rigorous standard, that aspiration may prove attainable.

Ohio Constitution Factsheet 

___________________

[1] “Ohio House of Representatives - 5-10-2023.” The Ohio Channel, May 10, 2023. https://ohiochannel.org/video/ohio-house-of-representatives-5-10-2023.

[2] “135th General Assembly: Amended Substitute Senate Joint Resolution Number 2.” Ohio Senate, May 10, 2023.

https://search-prod.lis.state.oh.us/solarapi/v1/general_assembly_135/resolutions/sjr2/EN/06/sjr2_06_EN?format=pdf.

[3] “Citizen-Initiated Constitutional Amendment - Ohio Secretary of State.” Frank La Rose, Ohio Secretary of State. Accessed May 25, 2023. https://www.ohiosos.gov/legislation-and-ballot-issues/putting-an-issue-on-the-ballot/citizen-initiated-constitutional-amendment/.

[4] Center for Christian Virtue. “Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment.” Columbus, Ohio: Center for Christian Virtue, 2023.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1n8T1SEyyPZE-qkQNrsEwAa0Fb57axFHM/view?usp=sharing

[5] See [4]

[6] “Michigan Committee Statement Contributions, Contributions: Reproductive Freedom for All.” Contributions | Michigan Campaign Finance Committee Search, 2022. https://cfrsearch.nictusa.com/documents/536436/details/filing/contributions?schedule=%2A&changes=0&page=1.

[7] Prokop, Andrew. “A New Indictment Shows How Sam Bankman-Fried’s Political Influence Worked.” Vox. February 23, 2023. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://www.vox.com/politics/2023/2/23/23611925/sam-bankman-fried-campaign-donations-indictment-woke.

[8] “Michigan Committee Statement Contributions, Contributions: Citizens to Support MI Women and Children.” Contributions | Michigan Campaign Finance Committee Search, 2022. https://cfrsearch.nictusa.com/documents/536254/details/filing/contributions?schedule=%2A&changes=0&page=1.

[9] Frazier, Allie. “Abortion Referendums in the Midwest: What Ohio’s Pro-Life Movement Can Learn From Kansas and Kentucky.” The Society of Saint Sebastian, January 24, 2023. Accessed May 24, 2023.  https://www.societyofstsebastian.org/ohio-referendum-frazier.

[10] “Abortion on the Ballot.” The New York Times, November 8, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/11/08/us/elections/results-abortion.html.

[11] “Amending the Constitution (Appendix A).” Bill of Rights Institute. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/activities/amending-the-constitution-appendix-a?gad=1&gclid=CjwKCAjwpayjBhAnEiwA-7enayoM46FuWeTCxsaAOLv_eNVqvCTZKScdXoWSei1Jr3m_HnuX3IPALRoCjM0QAvD_BwE.

[12] See [4]

[13] See [3]

[14] See [4]

[15] See [4]

[16] ACLU of Ohio. “Our Policy Strategist @mac_sean14 Defending Democracy Today at the Statehouse!  #noonhjr1 #NoOnSJR2 PIC.TWITTER.COM/LQJG4I76OK.” Twitter, May 10, 2023. https://twitter.com/acluohio/status/1656368838185742340.

[17] Marshall, Abbey. “Abortions down 50-60% at Cuyahoga Falls Clinic, but This Doctor Has No Plans to Close.” Akron Beacon Journal, September 14, 2022. https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/2022/09/14/abortions-down-at-akron-clinic-but-this-doctor-has-no-plans-to-close/69494021007/.

[18] See [3]

[19] See [2]

[20] “Ohio U.S. Senate Election Results.” The New York Times, November 8, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/11/08/us/elections/results-ohio-us-senate.html.

[21] See [2]

[22] Abdullahi, Rep. Munira Yasin. “And They Kicked out the Constituents in the Stands and Paused the Ohio Channel for a Bit. We’re Not Backing down Tho. They Gon Have to Kick Me out Too PIC.TWITTER.COM/KFNKWT6KN8.” Twitter, May 10, 2023. https://twitter.com/muniraforohio/status/1656400284279533568.

[23] See [2]

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