Ohio voters have added reproductive rights to the state constitution after passing Issue 1, marking a win for the pro-choice movement in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
The initiative, known as the Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative, was leading by 55% to 41% with about 85% of the vote counted, and was called by major news organizations around 9 p.m.
The measure stipulates that the state “shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against” individuals seeking abortions, contraception, and other reproductive-related medical services.
While abortion may be limited after fetal viability, or about 22 weeks’ gestation, any post-viability restrictions may be overridden by the treating doctor “to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health,” which typically includes mental health.
Reacting to the outcome, Jor-El Godsey, president of the pro-life group Heartbeat International, lamented that “Big Abortion won, while women, parents, and babies lost.”
He added, “Women lost common-sense protections. Parents have lost the ability to be involved in a key, and dangerous, component of their child’s medical and emotional health. And babies have been denied their bodily autonomy to grow as God intended.”
On the other hand, pro-choice advocates such as Indivisible managing director Mari Urbina celebrated the result, stating that it “demonstrates the enduring belief in reproductive freedom” and predicting more victories in 2024.
“As we head into the 2024 election cycle, we’re taking notes from this win in Ohio,” she said. “Now we look ahead to Arizona and so many other battlegrounds where voters will be the firewall for our democracy.”
Issue 1 marks the seventh state to vote on an abortion-related measure since the Dobbs decision, with the pro-choice side emerging victorious in each of the previous six state elections.
As a state constitutional amendment, Issue 1 would take precedence over Ohio’s current abortion law banning most abortions after 22 weeks’ gestation, as well as a heartbeat law pending in the courts.
The state’s law requiring parental consent for those under 18 could also be in jeopardy.
Furthermore, the amendment would limit the state legislature and GOP Gov. Mike DeWine from passing restrictions on abortion access.
The combined spending of both campaigns totaled more than $70 million, making it the most expensive abortion-related fight since the Dobbs decision sent decision-making back to the states.
The pro-choice side raised $41 million, led by Democratic megadonors such as the Sixteen Thirty Fund and George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center, while the pro-life camp collected $29 million, led by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and the Concord Fund.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of SBA Pro-Life America, attributed the passage of Issue 1 to a campaign that preyed on fear, stating that abortion activists and outside Democrat donors ran a campaign implying that “women will die” without Issue 1.
She claimed that this false narrative was supported by substantial ad spending funded by George Soros and a left-wing media machine that operated like Planned Parenthood’s PR department.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio celebrated the victory, declaring, “Abortion access is now the law of the land in Ohio! Ohioans can rest easy knowing that we will never again be denied timely medical care.”
While Governor DeWine opposed the measure, Democratic heavyweights like former President Barack Obama urged voters to “protect abortion rights by making them part of your state Constitution.”
Ohio voters previously defeated a ballot measure backed by pro-life groups in August that would have raised the threshold for passing constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%.