By Marc Kovac
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald pushed Thursday for a citizens initiative to overturn controversial abortion- related language added to the state’s new $62 billion biennial budget.
The Cuyahoga County executive also predicted potential legal action to counter the defunding of Planned Parenthood and other law changes.
“We are not powerless to do something about this,” he said during a stop in Columbus on Thursday. “There are options. Even though some of this legislation took away the options from women in Ohio, we still do have options to try to turn around this situation. And that story has not been told yet.”
He added, “There is something that can be done about this. This isn’t the end of the story.”
FitzGerald has criticized tax reform, school funding and local government support provisions in the budget, but his comments about a potential citizen initiative focused on a series of restrictions on abortion activities.
Among them were a re-prioritization of funding, essentially blocking money from going to Planned Parenthood; a requirement that doctors check for a fetal heartbeat before performing the procedure; and language related to rape crisis centers that opponents say will prevent women from understanding all of the medical options available to them.
FitzGerald said he knows of groups that are considering lawsuits.
FitzGerald also said a coalition comparable to the one that overturned Senate Bill 5 two years ago could pursue an initiated statute. The process would require gathering more than 100,000 initial signatures to place the proposed law changes before lawmakers, who would have about four months to act on them.
Absent their approval, the coalition would have the option of gathering additional signatures and placing the statute before voters during next year’s general election.
The state’s smoking ban and limits on strippers both were initiated under comparable circumstances. An initiative led by pet advocates to change state law related to dog auctions was put before law makers last year, but they did not act, and the group did not gather enough signatures to force a ballot vote.