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Abortion-rights activists begin collecting signatures for Ohio ballot initiative

They need just over 413,000 signatures by July 5 for the proposed constitutional amendment to appear on the November ballot.

BAINBRIDGE, Ohio — On Monday came the announcement that abortion-rights activists could begin collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that, if passed, would amend the Ohio Constitution to allow abortion until fetal viability in the state.

"In Bainbridge in Geauga County, we will be circulating petitions to get people to sign so we can get this on the ballot in November to secure our rights," activist Marla Zwinggi said.

(UPDATE: Saturday's scheduled event to circulate petitions for signatures in Geauga County has been postponed.)

To officially be put on the November ballot, organizers must obtain more than 413,000 signatures from people spread across at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties, or 10% of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial race.

"Abortion was illegal after six weeks until the injunction happened last fall," Zwinggi explained, referring to the currently blocked "Heartbeat Law." "Now, abortion currently is legal in Ohio, but at any point this injunction could go away."

Abortion-rights organizations hope to get between 700,000 and 800,000 signatures to make sure they clear the threshold. Zwinggi, working on behalf of Red Wine and Blue, is hoping 1,000 of them come Saturday.

"We're expecting people to come from Cuyahoga, Portage, Geauga, any surrounding areas," she said of the event. "You do not have to be just a Geauga resident to come; you can come from anywhere."

The ballot initiative is building momentum among some, but has also sparked outrage among anti-abortion groups like Ohio Right to Life, which calls the initiative "another shameful attempt by the abortion lobby to capitalize off painful situations to force upon Ohio citizens abortions until birth, remove parental rights, and cancel health and safety standards for abortion mills to abide by."

Abortion-rights advocates have until July 5 to turn in enough valid signatures.


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