Cincinnati archbishop urges Catholics to reject state abortion amendment in November

sonogram fetus A sonogram picture of a fetus in the second trimester of a woman's pregnancy | Shutterstock

Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr on Saturday urged Catholics in the state of Ohio to reject a November ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights under the state’s constitution.

The prelate said in a letter posted to the archdiocesan website that the proposed amendment, titled the “Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” would legalize the right to “take the lives of innocent children in the womb while harming women and families in the process.”

The amendment, if passed, would dictate that Ohio “shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against” a woman’s attempt to get an abortion.

State law currently prohibits abortion after the point at which an unborn child’s heartbeat is detected, generally around six weeks of pregnancy.

Under the amendment, lawmakers could prohibit abortion “after fetal viability,” or when a child could survive outside its mother’s uterus, generally at around 24 weeks of pregnancy. The state would be prohibited from doing so, however, in cases where a doctor determined that an abortion was necessary to protect the mother’s “life or health.”

Schnurr in his letter said the proposal is an “extraordinary and dangerous attempt to radically reshape Ohio through a constitutional amendment that does nothing to aid women or promote life.”

“As Catholics, we are morally obliged to uphold the dignity of life of all vulnerable humans — immigrants, the poor, preborn children,” Schnurr wrote. “We cannot remain silent on a direct ballot question like the one in November.”

The archbishop urged Catholics to pray for the amendment’s defeat, to raise awareness of the measure, and to vote against the initiative in the Nov. 7 general election.

“Beyond that, we must continue our commitment to caring for women, children, and families,” Schnurr said, calling also on the intercessions of St. Mary and St. Joseph for the state of Ohio.

The campaign to include the abortion measure on the November ballot was led by the pro-abortion group Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. The group said last month it was aiming to counteract what it called “draconian reproductive health care policies imposed by extremists.”

Ohioans earlier this month rejected a proposed rules change that, had it been passed, would have made it more difficult to adopt constitutional amendments via citizen-proposed ballot measures. The proposal was voted down by a margin of 57%-43%.

The August measure would have dictated that amendments like the abortion measure secure 60% of the vote to pass. With that proposal’s failure, the abortion amendment will only need the votes of a simple majority of Ohio voters to pass it. 

The August measure was criticized by pro-abortion activists who said the initiative was an effort by conservative and pro-life Ohioans to scuttle the abortion amendment in November. President Joe Biden called the August proposal an “attempt to weaken voters’ voices” and “erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions.”

A USA Today poll from July showed nearly 60% of Ohio voters supporting the November abortion amendment.

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