Ohioans Vote for Abortion Rights, Defeating Issue 1
Last week, Ohioans overwhelmingly voted against a ballot measure that would make it harder to amend the state’s constitution. The hotly contested election served as a proxy battle between pro-abortion and anti-abortion forces committed to winning victory in the upcoming November 2023 ballot initiative to add abortion rights to Ohio’s constitution. Supporters of reproductive freedom organized voters to vote “No” on Issue 1, to maintain the simple majority vote requirement to ensure that that abortion ballot measure would succeed. The proponents of Issue 1 cited reasons tied to curbing external interest group influence in Ohioan politics. However, the election’s overarching significance centered around abortion rights in Ohio, a state resolute in its commitment to safeguard legal abortion access within the post-Dobbs landscape.
Ohio’s Abortion Background
After the US Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade in the Dobbs decision that eliminated federally protected abortion access, trigger laws went immediately into effect across multiple states, including Ohio, putting near bans and restrictions on abortion access.
In 2019, Ohio Governor Mark DeWine signed Ohio’s “heartbeat” bill into law that restricted legal abortion access after 6 weeks of pregnancy. A preliminary injunction prevented the law from taking effect until it was lifted on June 24, 2022 after the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, rendering the law enforceable by state officials. Hamilton County Court of Common Appeals judge, Christian Jenkins granted a preliminary injunction on the law, meaning Ohio’s original law before the abortion restriction, currently stands and allows abortion procedures up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
State Battles Fight for Reproductive Freedom
Abortion rights organizers have mobilized citizens to take action by securing abortion access at the state-level. Ballot initiatives are the key to protecting abortion for Americans, and both sides of the abortion fight know it. During the 2022 midterm elections, an overwhelming turn-out of young people, especially young women, voted in favor of candidates and measures committed to protecting a person’s right to choose. These state battles continue to define the future of abortion access nationwide. States where abortion turns up on the ballot reveal Americans voting in favor of protecting abortion access. Post Dobbs, voters in Michigan, California and Vermont voted to codify abortion rights in their respective state constitutions, and in Kentucky, Kansas, and Montana, voters rejected measures aimed at eliminating abortion access.
Ballot referendums with abortion rights typically pass, but they largely have not surpassed the 60% supermajority threshold that supporters of Issue 1 sought. The outcome clears a direct path to success for the new amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the constitution by declaring “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom” for Ohioans. This triumph underscores the commitment of America’s pro-choice majority to reject the Dobbs decision and firmly anchor abortion rights.
Issue’s 1’s outcome looks poor for Republican leaders and their campaign against reproductive rights, especially given Ohio’s conservative leaning population that generally favors restrictions on abortion access. 700,000 early in-person and mail-in ballots cast represented a remarkable doubling of the number of votes cast in typical primary elections.
While Republican lawmakers initially advocated for the elimination of special elections due to low hyperlocal turnout, their stance conspicuously ignored the campaign surrounding Issue 1. This selective approach underscores their determination to advance their anti-abortion agenda among Ohio’s pro-choice majority. Ohioan Eric Chon reported to AP about the election noting Republican leaders’ sudden shift on special elections altogether saying, “Every time something doesn’t go their way, they change the rules.”
The Feminist Majority Foundation strongly supports Ohio’s vote in favor of democracy and securing reproductive freedom for all its people.