Ohio "Personhood" Initiative (2013)

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The Ohio "Personhood" Initiative did not appear on the November 2013 ballot in the state of Ohio as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure would have defined a person as any human at any stage of development, including fertilization. It was supported by Personhood Ohio as part of a nationwide campaign to change state constitutions to include all stages of development when defining a person.[1]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • Personhood USA President Keith Mason stated: "We're raising the issue up and producing the social tension necessary to change the way our country treats a pre-born child.[1]
  • Dr. Patrick Johnston, family physician and head of the campaign, stated: "It's a good state to go directly to the voters to gather enough signatures, and then go to the voters and the ballot box and bypass the committees that end up corrupting good pro-life legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate."[2]


The following is information obtained from the opposing side of the measure:

  • Tara Broderick, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio, categorized the initiative and its impacts as "dangerous and deceptive," stating: "If it passes, it changes the state constitution and puts the government smack in the middle of personal, private medical decisions between women and their doctors."[1]


See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Healthy Families Ohio, Inc. v. Ohio Ballot Board

In March of 2012, a lawsuit was filed against the initiative effort. The lawsuit was filed by Healthy Families Ohio, who argued that the measure addressed two subjects and should have been split into two separate measures. However, proponents argued that the goal of the initiative was to ban abortion in the state of Ohio, and nothing else. The Ohio Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit on March 21. According to Personhood Ohio spokesman Dr. Patrick Johnston: "They were trying to derail our petition process. We're trying to gather signatures to put a personhood amendment on the ballot in Ohio, which will end all abortion, protect every unborn child. And, of course, as you can imagine, they're doing everything they can to keep it off the ballot. They don't want Ohioans to vote on this issue."[3]

  • Documents in the case can be found here.

Path to the ballot

2012 attempt

On January 9, 2012, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted approved the language of the measure, allowing for the circulation of initiative petitions for signature gathering.[4]

However, it was reported on June 21, 2012 that the group behind the initiative were well short of the signature threshold, only collecting 20,000 signatures with less than a month remaining before the deadline. Patrick Johnston, the director of Personhood Ohio, stated, "I don't know what I'm going to get the last week of this month, but it needs to be a ton to get it by July 4." The measure did not make the ballot, according to reports.[5][6]

2013 attempt

Supporters of the proposal had until July 3, 2013 to turn in the required 385,247 signatures in order to place the measure on the ballot. A call to the Secretary of State's office on July 8, 2013, confirmed that no signatures had been turned in by the deadline

See also

Additional reading