Ohio House GOP says it will consider "removing jurisdiction from the judiciary" on Issue 1 laws
Republicans are expected to unveil their proposals on abortion-related laws in the wake of the passage of Issue 1, which put abortion rights in Ohio’s constitution. But a statement about Issue 1 on the House Republicans’ official government website this weekend has raised questions about what those plans will look like – and whether they’ll be constitutional.
The leader of the House Republican caucus isn't commenting.
The statement at Ohiohouse.gov reads in part: "To prevent mischief by pro-abortion courts with Issue 1, Ohio legislators will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative. The Ohio legislature alone will consider what, if any, modifications to make to existing laws based on public hearings and input from legal experts on both sides."
The statement also quotes Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester) as saying, “Foreign billionaires don't get to make Ohio laws,” and "This is foreign election interference, and it will not stand.”
Campaign filings last month showed the main pro-Issue 1 group, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, raised over $39 million this year. Most contributions came from within Ohio but the biggest dollar amounts came from national progressive groups such as the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the Open Society Policy Center, the Fairness Project and the American Civil Liberties Union. The opponents of Issue 1, Protect Women Ohio, raised almost $27 million so far – again, most contributions were from Ohio but the largest donations came from groups including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the Concord Fund, the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic dioceses of Ohio.
There's no evidence of foreign donations in this campaign. The Federal Elections Commission notes that federal law prohibits contributions or donations, expenditures directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any federal, state or local election.
When asked whether House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) agrees with the statement on the Ohio House Republicans' official government website, a spokesperson for Stephens said in a text Saturday: "We're not commenting on this at this time."
Those lines about removing the judiciary's jurisdiction and "foreign interference" were included word for word in an email sent Friday from the conservative Christian group Ohio Values Voters, which campaigned against Issue 1, often with disinformation. The email also quotes Rep. Bill Dean (R-Xenia), who said Issue 1 "is too vague and ambiguous to change anything", and Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena), who said, "No amendment can overturn the God given rights with which we were born.” Also quoted are former Rep. Ron Hood, a sponsor of the ban on abortion after six weeks that passed in 2019; former Rep. Candice Keller, who runs a crisis pregnancy center in southwest Ohio; and Janet Folger Porter, the former head of Ohio Right to Life and chief backer of that six-week ban. That email was also posted on the Ohio Values Voters website, but is no longer available there.
House Democrats have proposed a package of legislation on abortion laws. Those include eliminating required transfer agreements between facilities providing abortions and hospitals, a 24-hour waiting period, and the ban on prescribing of abortion medications via telemedicine. Their package does not include any proposals on the law requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions.
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said on Twitter this weekend: "Instead of creating a constitutional crisis with desperate, anti-American attacks on the rule of law and the power of citizens, out-of-touch politicians should work to uphold the bipartisan will of the people by respecting health care decisions between women and their doctors.”
Legal experts are saying what the House Republicans are suggesting is likely unconstitutional.
Copyright 2023 The Statehouse News Bureau.