March 10, 2023

Ohio Bishops Call for Faithful to Mobilize Against Abortion Ballot Initiative

The Catholic Times News – March 1, 2023

Ohio’s Catholic Bishops released a statement on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in response to a ballot initiative in the works from abortion supporters that would provide constitutional protections in the state for taking the life of unborn children in the womb during all nine months of pregnancy.

The bishops’ statement came a week after the proposed Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety Amendment was announced by several groups of abortion advocates and formally submitted to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who approved the ballot initiative’s language on March 2.

The amendment would need approximately 415,000 signatures to be placed on the November 2023 ballot in Ohio. Voters then would decide whether wide-ranging abortion protections will be enshrined into the state’s constitution.

The proposed amendment’s language includes giving women the “right” to “contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion” and says the state “shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with or discriminate against” abortion-minded women.  

“As Catholics, we are committed to protecting the sanctity of human life no matter the circumstances or stage of development,” the bishops said in a statement issued from the Catholic Conference of Ohio. “We live this out by, among other things, accompanying the poor and needy, refugees and immigrants, prisoners on death row, young mothers, and children.

“In Ohio, the dignity of life in its earliest stages is threatened by groups proposing an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution for the November 2023 ballot that would enshrine and expand abortion at the expense of protections for preborn children and women.

“The Church must not be silent and cannot remain on the sidelines when confronted with such a clear threat to human life. This proposal demands a response, and we strongly encourage Catholics and all people of good will in Ohio to work against including the proposed amendment for the November ballot and, if it appears on the ballot, vote against the amendment to prevent countless deaths of preborn, innocent children.”

The Catholic Conference of Ohio plans to collaborate with statewide organizations and encourages diocesan respect life offices to seek volunteers to help coordinate campaigns at all parishes to oppose the amendment.

“Our commitment to protecting and promoting life includes providing resources and accompanying women during and after pregnancy through our numerous social service agencies, schools, and parishes,” the bishops said in the statement. “This commitment also includes rejecting abortion expansion, which only perpetuates a throwaway culture that does not value human life.

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Ohio, stand with you, our faithful, in our commitment in the name of the Lord of Life, to each human person from conception to natural death.”

The bishops also asked the faithful to fast and pray the following prayer:

“God our loving Father, grant wisdom to those who govern us, compassion and courage to those who work to defend human life, and safety and care to every human being. For you alone who formed us in our mothers’ wombs, and who call us home to heaven, are God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had signed the state’s heartbeat law in 2019 to prevent abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected at about six weeks’ gestation, but the law had been blocked by a U.S. district judge until the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June reversed the federal “right” to abortion that had been in effect since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court after the Dobbs decision, and Judge Christian Jenkins of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court granted a restraining order that remains in effect, allowing abortions to continue up to 22 weeks’ gestation in Ohio.

State and local right to life groups say the wording of the ballot initiative from the abortion rights group is even more severe than anticipated.

“The abortion lobby is attempting to impose on Ohioans late-term abortion, paid for by taxpayers,” Ohio Right to Life communications director Elizabeth Marbach said in a statement. 

“They believe that they can rewrite our state Constitution to eliminate all protections for the unborn, including abortions after the point at which babies feel pain – endangering the health and well-being of both women and children.”

Beth Vanderkooi, executive director of Greater Columbus Right to Life, encourages all advocates for life to take this threat seriously and heed the bishops’ call to immediate action.

“This amendment contains exceptionally broad and extreme language, and if passed its proponents have promised that abortion in Ohio will be available without governmental interference,” she said. 

“This means stripping away basic health and safety guidelines, eliminating prohibitions on painful, cruel abortions of healthy babies late in pregnancy, removing informed consent protections and repealing parental consent laws that protect minors. This is too extreme for Ohio. 

“We are calling on each of you to help us build a three-part response. First, let’s commit to prayer and fasting as individuals and within our churches. Second, we are going to need all hands on deck in our effort to stop their signature-gathering process and, if necessary, to get out the vote to oppose this deeply disturbing proposal. 

“Third, we need financial support. This extreme abortion amendment is backed by millionaires and billionaires. We can only hope to respond if you do. Please go online at today to learn how we can defeat this together.”