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Ohioans vote to put abortion and reproductive rights in the state's constitution

After months of campaigning, tens of millions of dollars in advertising and political machinations from lawmakers who oppose abortion rights, Ohioans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to pass an amendment that will enshrine abortion and reproductive rights into the state’s constitution.

The Associated Press called the race a little after 9 p.m.

Ohio becomes the seventh state to vote to affirm abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022. It's also the fourth Republican-run state where voters have upheld the right to abortion.

Supporters of Ohio Issue 1 legalizing abortion in the state celebrate its passage.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Supporters of Ohio Issue 1 legalizing abortion in the state celebrate its passage.

Lauren Blauvelt, a leader of the campaign for Issue 1, said passage means the six-week abortion ban that's on hold, but could be reinstated by the Ohio Supreme Court, will no longer be constitutional.

"This has been such a long time coming. This campaign came together last year because we lost access. Because there was a dangerous abortion ban in Ohio, patients and families were being harmed and lives were being put at risk. There was no choice. We had to end the ban," Blauvelt said.

Doctors were a driving force behind the constitutional amendment effort.

Some sued the state in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court last fall, saying Ohio’s six-week ban was endangering women's lives. That ban was in place for 82 days—starting hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments on a technical issue related to the ban in September, and four of those who heard the case have publicly expressed pro-life views.

“We are now united in purpose that 2023 is not only the most strategic year to place this on both for political reasons and resource reasons, but also for the medical imperatives that our patients need," said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, president of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, when the ballot issue was launched in February.

Opponents had claimed the amendment would allow unregulated abortion, though the amendment reads: "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."

Members of the anti-Issue 1 coalition, including Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer, concede on Election Night in November 2023.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Members of the anti-Issue 1 coalition, including Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer, concede on Election Night in November 2023.

They also claimed the amendment would eliminate parental rights. Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, who campaigned against Issue 1, said in a legal analysis that though it's likely to be challenged, it didn't directly address parental consent.

Aaron Baer, president of the group, Citizens for Christian Virtue, had pushed hard to kill the amendment.

"Our hearts are broken tonight," Baer said Tuesday night during concession remarks. "We persevered for 50 years to overturn Roe v. Wade. Ours is a movement that has always endured and always will. Tomorrow, the work starts again."

The form that work will take is not entirely clear.

Amy Natoce, the spokesperson for anti-abortion coalition Protect Women Ohio, said the movement still has numerous high-level allies—from the governor’s office to the state legislature.

"They’ll continue to do what they can within the bounds of this amendment," Natoce said.

GOP legislative leaders, however, said it's not a done deal. House Speaker Jason Stephens issued a statement minutes after the race was called, saying the legislature “has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life.” Senate President Matt Huffman called Tuesday the beginning of a "revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1."

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.
Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.