Ohio voters decided to codify reproductive freedom into the state constitution on Tuesday in a monumental win for abortion rights supporters.
Issue 1, also known as the Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative, will add language to the Ohio Constitution declaring that anyone in the state has a right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion care, contraception, miscarriage care and fertility treatment.
The initiative, written and supported by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, allows the state to restrict abortion after fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases where the pregnant person’s health or life is at risk.
“Together, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights passed Issue 1 and put Ohioians back in charge of their personal decisions about pregnancy and abortion,” Lauren Blauvelt, campaign co-chair of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and vice-president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said in a Tuesday night statement. “… Ohioans rejected disinformation and fear and voted instead to ensure that every Ohioan has access to the reproductive healthcare they need here in our state.”
Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights celebrated the major win during an election night watch party. A large room of supporters jumped up and down and clapped upon hearing the news that Issue 1 had passed.
Abortion is currently legal in Ohio through 22 weeks of pregnancy, but anti-choice state lawmakers have made several attempts over the years to ban abortion. At the moment, a handful of abortion restrictions in Ohio that apply prior to fetal viability are tied up in court, including a six-week ban that briefly went into effect after Roe v. Wade fell in June 2022.
The passage of this ballot initiative effectively invalidates the six-week abortion ban and any other past or future attempts to restrict abortion before fetal viability in Ohio.
The lead-up to Tuesday night’s election was rife with controversy and misinformation. This summer, anti-choice Republicans — who hold majorities in the state House and Senate — held a special election in a preemptive attempt to block the pro-choice ballot initiative.
Although a simple majority has been the standard requirement for altering the state constitution in Ohio for over 100 years, Republicans tried to raise the threshold from a simple statewide majority vote to 60%. That Republican attempt to make it harder to amend the state constitution failed by a large margin in early August.
Many Republicans claimed that the special election was about protecting Ohio from out-of-state special interests, but it was ultimately a proxy fight over abortion rights — setting the stage for Tuesday night’s election.
Following Republicans’ failure to pass their anti-choice agenda in August, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) and other abortion opponents continued a push to confuse voters on the issue ahead of the November election. LaRose, a vocal anti-choice advocate, along with four other members of the Ohio Ballot Board, approved anti-abortion language that was used in the voting booth on Tuesday.
The approved summary language included terms like “unborn child” instead of “fetus” and did not include any language about the right to make decisions about miscarriages, fertility treatments or contraception — even though that’s a significant part of the amendment.
LaRose also removed over 25,000 inactive voter registrations in the fall, a decision that is common but that is normally made over the summer, not ahead of a general election.
“Once again, voters proved that ever since the Dobbs decision rolled back the clock on women’s rights and unleashed a full-blown health care crisis, everywhere abortion rights are on the ballot, abortion rights win,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a Tuesday night statement.
“Republicans in Ohio went to extraordinary lengths to try to stop voters from making their voices heard on this issue ― from trying to make it harder to pass ballot measures, to launching a multi-million-dollar disinformation campaign, to drafting incendiary and false language to mislead voters on what Issue 1 was about,” Murray said. “Even in the face of these desperate and dishonest efforts, women still turned out to make their voices heard, and abortion rights still won.”