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With its passage, the Ohio Constitution now protects the right to an abortion up to the point of fetal viability but gives way for the state to enact laws that limit abortions thereafter, except in cases where the life or the health of the mother is at risk. Each critical determination — the point of fetal viability and the point in which the mother is at risk — will be determined by the mother’s treating physician.
Dr. Catherine Romanos, an abortion provider for Kettering’s Womens Med, was one of the hundreds of jubilant pro-choice organizers and activists that attended the pro-Issue 1 watch party in downtown Columbus Tuesday night. She told the Dayton Daily News that Issue 1 will bring much-needed certainty to Ohioans and others from protection-less states that are in need of an abortion.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in that tomorrow I’m going to be able to see patients and tell them, ‘Yeah, you can come back next week, it’ll be okay. Nothing’s going to happen,’” Romanos said. “Because almost every week I have someone ask me, ‘Are you still going to be here next week?’”
Romanos’ relief was echoed by Dr. Marcela Azevedo, founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, a group that was instrumental in drafting the amendment and swiftly petitioning it onto the ballot using Ohio’s citizen-initiated amendment process.
To the crowd, Azevedo recalled the difficulties everyday Ohioans and Ohio abortion providers faced when Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban was briefly in place following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“This will never happen again because of the work you have done,” Azevedo said. “The impact of passing Issue 1 will be felt throughout the state and for generations and generations to come. Because Ohioans stood up, from now on, the people of Ohio will get the care that they deserve.”
Elsewhere in the Ohio capital, Issue 1 opponents lamented Tuesday’s outcome.
“Our hearts are broken tonight not because we lost an election, but because Ohio families, women and children will bear the brunt of this vote,” said anti-Issue 1 campaign Protect Women Ohio in a statement.
The group’s opposition to Issue 1 was rooted not only in a fundamental opposition to abortion but in concern that Issue 1 could wreak unintended consequences to current Ohio laws. Principally, the group is concerned that the new amendment will nullify an Ohio law that requires a minor to get parental consent before they can receive an abortion — a claim the amendment’s campaign and authors flatly deny.
“But rest assured: the pro-life movement is more united than ever. We stand ready during this unthinkable time to advocate for women and the unborn, just as we have always done. We persevered for 50 years to overturn Roe v Wade,” the campaign’s statement continued. “Ours is a movement that has always endured, and always will. Tomorrow, the work starts again as we fight to be a voice for the voiceless and advocate for women and parents.”
Republican leaders of both the Ohio House and Senate vowed to continue working on anti-abortion measures, insisting that Issue 1′s passage wasn’t the end of the conversation.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said Tuesday’s result is “really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”
“As a 100% pro-life conservative, I remain steadfastly committed to protecting life, and that commitment is unwavering,” said House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill. “The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.”
Shortly after the race was called, President Joe Biden issued a statement voicing satisfaction with Tuesday’s results and rebuking the states that have enacted restrictive abortion laws.
“Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms — and democracy won. In Ohio, voters protected access to reproductive health in their state constitution. Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalize doctors and nurses for providing the health care that their patients need and that they are trained to provide,” Biden said.
10:05 p.m. UPDATE: Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati responds
“The people of Ohio missed this important opportunity to demonstrate that the health and safety of women, the fundamental rights of parents, and the lives of preborn children deserve protection,” said Schnurr. “Despite this outcome, we are grateful for all of you who prayed, educated yourselves and others, and voted NO on this horrific amendment. And we praise God for the gift of His great love and mercy which he continues to pour out to us in good times and in bad. The passage of Issue 1 shows that there remains a desperate need for conversion of hearts and minds to a culture of life in our country, one that respects the inherent dignity and sacredness of every human being from conception to natural death.”
10 p.m. UPDATE: Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, responds
“As a 100% pro-life conservative, I remain steadfastly committed to protecting life, and that commitment is unwavering,” said Stephens. “The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.”
9:29 p.m. UPDATE: President Joe Biden responds
President Joe Biden said, “Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms – and democracy won. In Ohio, voters protected access to reproductive health in their state constitution. Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalize doctors and nurses for providing the health care that their patients need and that they are trained to provide. This extreme and dangerous agenda is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans. My administration will continue to protect access to reproductive health care and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law once and for all.”
9:17 p.m. UPDATE: U.S. Senator responds
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reacted to State Issue 1 passing.
“Tonight, Ohioans made it clear that women’s health care decisions should be between them and their doctors, not politicians. That’s what I’ve always believed and will continue to fight for in the U.S. Senate,” Brown said. “My opponents disagree and have made it clear they would overrule Ohioans by voting for a national abortion ban. While my opponents work to ban abortion, I will continue fighting for and standing with the people of Ohio.”
9 P.M. UPDATE: Issue 1 passes
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that ensures access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, the latest victory for abortion rights supporters since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
Ohio became the seventh state where voters decided to protect abortion access after the landmark ruling and was the only state to consider a statewide abortion rights question this year.
The Associated Press called the race in favor of Issue 1 at 9 p.m. Voters are supporting the measure 57% in support to 43% opposed, according to early, unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State
The outcome of the intense, off-year election could be a bellwether for 2024, when Democrats hope the issue will energize their voters and help President Joe Biden keep the White House. Voters in Arizona, Missouri and elsewhere are expected to vote on similar protections next year.
Ohio’s constitutional amendment, on the ballot as Issue 1, included some of the most protective language for abortion access of any statewide ballot initiative since the Supreme Court’s ruling. Opponents had argued that the amendment would threaten parental rights, allow unrestricted gender surgeries for minors and revive “partial birth” abortions, which are federally banned.
Abortion access is on the ballot today as Ohioans cast their vote on State Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would give every Ohioan the right to make their own decisions on abortion and other matters of reproductive healthcare.
The amendment needs support from a simple majority of Ohio voters in order to pass.
If it were to pass, the Ohio Constitution would protect abortion access up to fetal viability and provide exceptions thereafter for the life and health of the mother. If Issue 1 were to fail, Ohio could find itself under a blocked-for-now six-week abortion ban, which provides exceptions for the life of the mother but grants no such exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Despite the amendment being relatively short, this November’s Election Day was preceded by months of growing debate over what Issue 1′s actual impact would be, should it pass. While proponents claim that Issue 1 does nothing more than return Ohio to the same de facto rules it was required to operate under while Roe v. Wade was in effect, Issue 1′s biggest opponents have pointed to a general broadness in the amendment and asserted that there will be unintended consequences from its passage.
Here’s what Ohioans are voting on, in full:
A. Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on:
- fertility treatment;
- continuing one’s own pregnancy;
- miscarriage care;
- and abortion.
B. The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either:
- An individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or
- A person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.
- However, abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.
C. As used in this Section:
- “Fetal viability” means “the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.”
- “State” includes any governmental entity and any political subdivision.
D. This Section is self-executing.
In particular, opponents have raised concerns about how the amendment would impact Ohio’s law on parental consent that mandates a minor seeking abortion receives permission from at least one parent in order to obtain care and the provisions of the amendment that protect abortion access even after fetal viability, which opponents, like Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, argue goes “too far” for Ohio.
However, Issue 1 supporters have either denied those assertions or argued for more context.
“We can confidently state that Issue 1 was never intended to and will have no impact on Ohio’s parental consent laws,” a group of leaders of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, a group heavily involved in drafting the amendment, wrote in a recent Columbus Dispatch column.
Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the group ultimately responsible for drafting the amendment and petitioning it onto the ballot, has argued that provisions protecting abortion access after viability is there only to protect abortions that are medically necessary.
Like all constitutional matters, Issue 1′s full impact will inevitably be decided by the interpretation of the Ohio Supreme Court, including which laws would be negated and what Ohio’s actionable definition of fetal viability would be.