An effort to ensure access to abortion rights in Ohio, a ballot measure in November, is already leading to misleading claims about its potential impact on abortion care, gender-related health care, and parental consent in the state.
The proposed constitutional amendment would grant Ohioans the right to make their own reproductive decisions. Supporters argue that since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, the proposal would restore common-sense abortion protection that is supported by most Ohio voters.
However, opponents argue that it would do much more than that. Ads depict the amendment as a way for children to get abortions and gender-related surgeries without parental consent. Opponents have also falsely suggested that the amendment would protect abusers and legalize infanticide.
The Associated Press spoke with several medical and legal experts who explained what the amendment, known as Issue 1, would mean for Ohioans if it passes in November.
If the amendment is approved, Ohio can still impose restrictions on abortion beyond the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb. With modern medicine, this point, known as the point of viability, is usually around 23-24 weeks into the pregnancy.
However, opponents of the measure argue that it would still allow for abortions “up to birth” because it lets doctors determine if a fetus is viable and because it has a provision allowing for later abortions to protect the life or health of the mother.
Independent medical and legal experts say this argument overlooks the fact that doctors are obligated to follow medical science.
The original language in the proposed amendment defines fetal viability as the ability of the fetus to survive outside the uterus with reasonable measures.
Abortions later in pregnancy are extremely rare, accounting for less than 1% of abortions performed in the United States. These procedures typically involve medication that induces early birth, which is different from a surgical abortion.
Anti-abortion advocates claim that the amendment “enables abusers” because it protects anyone who “assists” someone in exercising their right to make reproductive decisions. However, legal experts argue that these claims would not hold up in court and that abuse is already illegal under Ohio law.
Opponents of the abortion amendment also argue that its protection of “reproductive” decisions is overly broad and could include gender-related health care. However, supporters of the proposal state that it does not mention gender-related health care because it is not addressing that issue specifically.
The ballot language specifies that the amendment protects reproductive decisions “including but not limited to” contraception, fertility treatment, continuing a pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.
Legal experts say it is a stretch to suggest that this also includes gender-related health care, as this legal theory has not been attempted in other states. The term “decision” is seen as crucial in interpreting the language of the amendment.
The amendment does not change Ohio’s existing parental notification and consent law, which requires minors to obtain parental permission or a judicial exception to have an abortion.
Opponents of the amendment argue that it could be challenged in court, potentially leading to the invalidation of the parental consent law. However, similar arguments were made before Michigan’s vote last year to codify abortion rights in the state’s constitution, and none of those concerns materialized.
To overturn Ohio’s parental consent law, it would need to be challenged in court and struck down by the state Supreme Court, which currently has a conservative majority.