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Published: Saturday, 12/31/2011

Anti-abortion effort given approval to move forward

Personhood Ohio seeks anti-abortion amendment

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS -- An Ohio anti-abortion group was cleared Friday to continue with its ballot effort to amend the state's constitution to declare that life begins when a human egg is fertilized.

The proposed amendment from Personhood Ohio is aimed at banning abortions. It seeks to expand the definition of a person to include every human being at every stage of biological development, including fertilization.

Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the group's petition for the proposed amendment, saying the summary of the amendment is a "fair and truthful" reflection of the measure.

He rejected Personhood Ohio's initial summary in October.

The Ohio Ballot Board still must sign off on the proposal before its supporters can begin gathering signatures to put it on next year's November ballots.

The board members are to meet in early January.

Roughly 385,000 signatures from Ohio voters would be needed by July for the initiative to appear on 2012 ballots. And backers of the measure would have to collect a certain percentage of those signatures from at least 44 of the state's 88 counties.

The so-called "personhood" ballot effort in political bellwether Ohio is similar to a measure that voters in the Bible Belt state of Mississippi defeated in November.

The initiative was rejected by 58 percent of voters in Mississippi, falling short of the threshold needed for it to be enacted.

Opponents there had said it would have made birth control, such as the morning-after pill or the intrauterine device, illegal. They also contended the measure would have deterred physicians from performing in vitro fertilization because they would fear criminal charges if an embryo doesn't survive.

Personhood Ohio's director, Patrick Johnston. said Friday he believes the group has a better chance at defending itself against those arguments. When the group refiled its petition this month, the supporters rephrased the amendment to say it wouldn't affect "genuine contraception" or in vitro fertilization procedures.

"That wording will be very helpful when people go to the ballot box and they read what our amendment would not do," Mr. Johnston said.

An opponent group called Healthy Families Ohio has taken issue with the summary language. In a letter this week, its lawyer urged Mr. DeWine to reject the wording because it is vague and could mislead voters.

Attorney Don McTigue said among other problems, the summary of the proposal doesn't sufficiently explain the exceptions for contraception or in vitro fertilization.



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