A Look into the Proposed Amendment: “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” with Professor and Attorney, Jessie Hill


Professor Jessie Hill discussing her work around abortion rights (PHOTO BY CASE LAW)

Mia Ramundo

I had the opportunity to interview Jessie Hill, a professor at Case Western Law School in Cleveland. She described teaching as her full-time job but also discussed her involvement with the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. She volunteers for the ACLU as an attorney, litigating abortion rights cases. She says, “I’ve been a lawyer on pretty much all of the cases that the ACLU has had in Ohio dealing with reproductive rights.” She went on to say another area of her recent involvement has been with the ballot initiative for the proposed amendment, “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.” 

When asked about her career path, Professor Hill said she was interested in women’s issues even back in high school. When she was in law school, she found a heightened interest in working with constitutional law and civil rights work. After law school, she then went to work with the National Office of the ACLU in New York, where from there, she was placed into the Reproductive Freedom Project. She describes herself as “lucky,” saying she loved the legal work, the people she worked with, and the way the job mended her interests and skills into a position she was passionate about. Although she always had an interest in it, she says at points, she saw herself working in other areas of law besides women’s rights. Now, she says, “I feel really lucky to have taken this path and to be here in Ohio at this moment, which is a scary, but also kind of exciting moment.”

When asked about any moments of triumph that Professor Hill had come to experience during her years of work, she highlighted a specific, fond memory. She described that in the wake of the Dobbs decision, overruling Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022, she worked as an attorney representing the ACLU, bringing a lawsuit against the Ohio law that bans abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy. She says, “I remember this was in October, we had a hearing and it was actually in Cincinnati. It was kind of like a mini-trial, this hearing, and it took a full day. We were expecting the Judge to do what they normally do which was that after the hearing he says, ‘I’ll make a ruling and it will come out in a few days.’ Instead, he said, ‘I’m just going to rule from the bench, I have enough information.’ Then he ruled, right then and there, that he was blocking the law. It was just this unbelievable feeling. All the attorneys were hugging each other, and I remember turning around and looking at one of our clients, a doctor who provided abortions in Cincinnati, and she just had tears running down her face because she was so happy.”

Professor Hill explains the proposed amendment as this: “The amendment would amend the Ohio Constitution. It would add language saying that Ohioans have a right to reproductive freedom, which includes the freedom to make your own decisions about not just abortion, but also contraception, fertility treatments, miscarriage care, and continuing a pregnancy. It’s basically a broad right to make reproductive decisions. It says the state can put limits on that freedom, but only to protect people’s health and safety, not for other reasons. So, they can’t do it because of religious beliefs, or ideology, or things like that.”  

When asked about what this amendment would 100% guarantee for the women of Ohio, Hill says, “The words are only as effective as the lawmakers and the courts that are charged with putting them into effect. One clear thing is that bans on abortion or contraception, like the one in place right now on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy if the amendment passes will not be deemed okay. The amendment would restore Roe v. Wade in a lot of ways, so abortion bans would not be okay, but there will probably continue to be lawsuits and disagreement over other sorts of less burdensome restrictions.”

Professor Hill then talked about her direct involvement with the proposed amendment, saying she was one of the people who worked on drafting the language of the amendment. She went on to discuss the process of the amendment thus far. She said, after drafting, the amendment went through the process of first, having to be approved by the Attorney General of Ohio. He had to approve that the summary of the amendment was fair and accurate. It went from there to the Ballot Board, where it was determined that the amendment dealt with only one subject. Once the Ballot Board approved it, the process of gathering signatures to get the amendment on the ballot could begin. Professor Hill describes that she has been somewhat a part of that process, but organized volunteers play the biggest role.

As the signature collection started, affiliates of Right to Life filed a lawsuit, saying the Ballot Board should not have approved the amendment and that it contains more than one subject. Professor Hill is now also involved with helping to defend the amendment against this lawsuit. As an attorney, Professor Hill believes that the lawsuit is an attempt to delay things. She doesn’t believe the lawsuit holds a lot of merits, and other legal experts who she has talked to about it agree. She says, “I’m not terribly worried about it, although you kind of never know for sure what might happen.”

When asked what actions Professor Hill would encourage the general public to take to push toward the ratification of the amendment, she responded by saying, “Anyone who’s over eighteen, who hasn’t been convicted of a crime, and who lives in Ohio, can be involved in helping to gather signatures. Someone passionate about that can go through a very easy training that takes an hour or less and then can help to get the signatures needed. I think the number is 414,000, which is a lot, so we need people from all over the state. If you’re old enough to be registered to vote, and you are registered to vote, you can also sign the petitions. There’s also still not widespread public awareness about this, so just telling people, ‘You’ve gotta get out to vote, this amendment will be on the ballot in November of 2023’ can help. Getting people to turn out to vote, committing to bringing some friends or family to the polls, or even if you’re not old enough to vote, encouraging people who can, to do so, is the most important thing. There’s gonna need to be turnout and a big effort still to get the amendment actually on the ballot.”

To wrap it all up, Professor Hill says, “Speaking on the topic of AP Government and this amendment, I think it’s a really exciting moment because this is democracy in action. In the Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court said that this is not an issue for the federal courts, this is an issue to be decided at the state level through a democratic process. This is exactly that. There’s real excitement about this because it is democracy in action, it is direct democracy, and it is people letting their voices be heard on this issue. It’s important to make sure that people are aware of it and to take this opportunity. Honestly, if the amendment gets on the ballot and fails, that’s probably the end of it in Ohio. Besides this, for the foreseeable future, there’s probably not another chance to get abortion rights protected in Ohio. Stakes are huge.”


Case Western Reserve University. case.edu/law/our-school/faculty-directory/jessie-hill.

“Groups Submit the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety Amendment to Ohio Attorney General.” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, 21 Feb. 2023, www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-advocates-ohio/media/groups-submit-the-right-to-reproductive-freedom-with-protections-for-health-and-safety-amendment-to-ohio-attorney-general.

Ohio State, General Assembly, Assembly, Attorney General of Ohio. Initiative Petition. https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/getattachment/cf27c10f-b153-4731-ae9e-e3555a326ed9/The-Right-to-Reproductive-Freedom-with-Protections-for-Health-and-Safety.aspx.