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Ohio's 2023 abortion fight cost campaigns $70 million

Signs for and against a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Ohio.
Julie Carr Smyth
/
AP
Signs for and against a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Ohio stand in front of the Greene County Board of Elections in Xenia, Ohio, Oct. 11, 2023. Abortion rights supporters have raised nearly twice as much money as anti-abortion groups in the fall campaign related to a constitutional amendment that would ensure abortion access in Ohio. Much of the money comes from national groups or wealthy donors outside the state.

This fall's fight over abortion rights in Ohio cost a combined $70 million, campaign finance reports filed Friday show.

Voters overwhelming passed November's Issue 1, which guaranteed an individual's right “to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions,” making Ohio the seventh state where voters opted to protect abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court 's decision last summer to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The pro campaign, known as Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, raised and spent more than $39.5 million to pass the constitutional amendment, the filings show. Protect Women Ohio, the opposition campaign, raised and spent about $30.4 million.

Nearly $11 million in donations favoring passage of Issue 1 rolled in during the final reporting period before the Nov. 7 election. That included $2.2 million from the Tides Foundation and an additional $1.65 million from the progressive Sixteen Thirty Fund, based in Washington, D.C., which had already given $5.3 million. The fund counts among its funders Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who has given the group more than $200 million since 2016.

The campaign in support of the abortion rights amendment also received an additional $500,000 from the New York-based Open Society Policy Center, a lobbying group associated with the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and a second $1 million donation from billionaire Michael Bloomberg in the closing weeks of the high stakes campaign.

Meanwhile, the pace of Protect Women Ohio's fundraising fell off significantly in the final weeks, with the campaign reporting $3.4 million in contributions for the final reporting period, down from nearly $10 million raised in the previous period.

The vast majority of that money became from the Protection Women Ohio Action Fund, which was supported mostly by The Concord Fund out of Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia-based Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America.

Over the three years it took supporters of recreational marijuana legalization to get their initiated statute passed as this fall's Issue 2, they only spent about a tenth of what the abortion fight cost.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the pro campaign, raised and spent roughly $6.5 million since its inception in 2021, with the bulk of its contributions coming from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based marijuana legalization nonprofit — which donated about $3 million over that time period — and from medical marijuana dispensaries across the state.

Protect Ohio Workers and Families, the opposition campaign that only sprung up earlier this year, raised only $828,000, reports show. Its largest donor was the American Policy Coalition, a conservative nonprofit organization out of Alexandria, Virginia, which donated about $320,000.

Other notable donors included the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and the Ohio Hospital Association.