By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – Voters in Ohio will decide in November whether to enshrine the right to abortion in their state constitution, after state officials on Tuesday confirmed abortion rights supporters had gathered enough signatures to place the question on the ballot.

The measure will be closely watched by groups on both sides of the abortion debate, as activists consider pursuing referendums in other states after the U.S. Supreme Court last year stripped away national abortion rights.

Ohio is likely to be the only state to vote on abortion rights this fall.

The outcome may not rely on a simple majority. The state’s Republican-controlled legislature, aiming to make it more difficult for the referendum to succeed, approved a separate ballot question asking voters to raise the threshold of voters required to amend the state constitution to 60%, instead of 50%.

That measure will be decided at a special election on August 8. A USA TODAY Network/Suffolk University of Ohio poll taken in early July found 58% of Ohio voters favor protecting abortion rights, with 32% opposed.

The Ohio secretary of state’s office said Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the coalition backing the proposed abortion measure, submitted 495,938 valid signatures from 55 counties, above the minimum qualifying levels of 413,487 signatures and 44 counties.

“Now that the petition drive is complete, we’re eager to continue the campaign to enshrine those rights in Ohio’s Constitution and ensure that Ohioans will never again be subject to draconian reproductive health care policies imposed by extremists,” two of the group’s leaders, Lauren Blauvelt and Lauren Beene, said in a statement.

Protect Women Ohio, the group leading the opposition campaign, called the November measure “anti-parent” in a statement, warning it would allow minors to have abortions without their parents’ consent.

Abortion rights proponents have used ballot measures successfully in other Republican-leaning states. Kansas voters chose to preserve constitutional protection of abortion rights in 2022, while voters in Kentucky rejected a referendum that sought to establish the state constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.

Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks. A six-week ban signed into law by Republican Governor Mike DeWine has been on hold pending the outcome of legal challenges, which the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear.



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