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Republican faction seeks to keep courts from interpreting Ohio’s new abortion rights amendment

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Four Ohio Republican state lawmakers are seeking to strip judges of their power to interpret an abortion rights amendment after voters opted to enshrine those rights in the state’s constitution this week.

Republican state Reps. Jennifer Gross, Bill Dean, Melanie Miller and Beth Lear said in a news release Thursday that they’ll push to have the Legislature, not the courts, make any decisions about the amendment passed Tuesday.

“To prevent mischief by pro-abortion courts with Issue 1, Ohio legislators will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative,” said the mix of fairly new and veteran lawmakers who are all vice-chairs of various House committees. “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.”

A woman bows her head during a prayer at a watch party for opponents of Issue 1 at the Center for Christian Virtue in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A woman bows her head during a prayer at a watch party for opponents of Issue 1 at the Center for Christian Virtue in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

It’s the latest development in the struggle over abortion rights between the Republican-dominated Legislature and the majority of the voters, who passed the amendment by a margin of 57% to 43%.

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Abortion rights advocates plan to ask the courts to repeal any remaining abortion bans and restrictions on the books in Ohio, including a mandatory 24-hour period that abortion seekers must wait before they can have the procedure and a ban on abortions after a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

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House Speaker Jason Stephens declined to comment on the release, according to his spokesperson, Aaron Mulvey. However, Stephens was among the dozens of legislative Republicans who have vowed to fight back against the new amendment.

“The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation,” Stephens previously said in a news release.

If the amendment or any other abortion restrictions were to end up being challenged in the courts, it’s unclear how they would fare. The state Supreme Court has a conservative majority and has the final say over state constitutional issues.

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Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.