The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the term “unborn child” could remain in an abortion amendment set to go on the ballot in November after activists filed a lawsuit over the language.
The state’s ballot board, which includes Secretary of State Frank LaRose, voted 3-2 in August that the term “fetus” should be changed to “unborn child” in order to give voters a clearer understanding of the ramifications of the amendment, which would make abortion a constitutional right in the state. In response, Ohioans for Reproductive Rights (ORR) filed a lawsuit days later, arguing the board was ignoring rules that required the language to “not ‘mislead, deceive, or defraud’ voters, but the state Supreme Court determined that the use of the term “unborn child” could stay in, noting that even the plaintiffs did not argue it was “factually inaccurate.”
“We reject the relators’ argument. Importantly, relators do not argue that the term ‘unborn child’ is factually inaccurate,” the opinion reads. “To the contrary, their argument asserts that ‘unborn child’ is a divisive term that elicits a moral judgment whereas the terms ‘fetus’ and ‘fetal viability’ are more neutral and scientific. But this argument does not establish that the ballot board’s language constitutes improper persuasion.”
The amendment would make abortion legal up until birth in some circumstances if a doctor determined it was necessary and would restrict the state from making restrictions on the practice as long as it doesn’t impact the protection of the mother’s life.
Ohio’s ballot board had also altered the amendment to include a section that would “prohibit the citizens of the State of Ohio from directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, or prohibiting abortion before an unborn child is determined to be viable, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means,” according to the ruling. The court sided with ORR on this issue, ruling that the phrase “citizens of the State” was “misleading.
Due to the way the new language used the term “citizens,” the court argued that a voter may believe that the amendment would stop individual residents of Ohio “from taking actions to burden, penalize, or prohibit abortion,” the court’s ruling reads. Additionally, the justices said that the current language seems to indicate that the amendment would “limit the rights of individual citizens to oppose abortion” instead of creating a right to protect its access “free from government intrusion.”
As a result, the opinion ordered the board to revise the language to clear up the confusion on this issue. Mary Cianciolo, a spokesperson for LaRose’s office, said that they were pleased with the outcome of the court’s decision, according to NBC News.
“By rejecting special interest attempts to substitute their own carefully crafted and poll-tested language for that of the ballot board, they have ensured Ohio voters will have a full and accurate understanding of the proposed measure when they go to cast their ballots,” Cianciolo said.
LaRose’s office and the attorney for ORR did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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