Ohio Voters Add Abortion Rights to State Constitution
By Annabella Gizzi
I want to begin by acknowledging that this blog covers a sensitive topic matter that may be disturbing for some readers. It is a challenging case to read about, but one that will likely be a defining moment for the abortion debate in the United States.
Off-year elections are often thought of as irrelevant in the United States. They also tend to have lower turnout than presidential election years and midterms, which are low to begin with. However, despite the fact that off-year elections are often downplayed, they can be quite consequential, and give us important clues about the outcome of the next major election.
Just a few weeks ago, the 2023 election season came to a close in the United States. Several states had key elections that would determine important issues for the people residing in those states, including Issue 1 in the state of Ohio, which would enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. Issue 1 was a highly contentious and costly item on the ballot, with both sides spending millions of dollars on advertising, canvassing, and more. In 2022, similar measures were seen in Montana and Kansas, two red states like Ohio. In both those states, the measures passed protecting abortion rights in both states. Because of the victories in Montana and Kansas, pro-choice advocates in Ohio felt they had a high probability of success. However, in a state that has been trending more to the right, they knew nothing was guaranteed. Early results showed the pro-choice side had a commanding lead, and it never really diminished – the race was called in favor of Issue 1 not long after polls closed, enshrining abortion rights into the state constitution.
The pro-choice victory in Ohio was largely propelled by an incident that occurred in 2022 as a result of the state’s restrictive six-week abortion ban. When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, a six-week abortion ban took effect in Ohio. On June 30, 2022, a 10-year-old girl from Columbus, Ohio, who had been raped and impregnated, traveled with her family across state borders into Indiana to obtain an abortion – a procedure she had been denied in Ohio. She had just passed the six-week mark during which she could legally obtain an abortion in Ohio, and the law did not contain exceptions for rape or incest. One of the most horrific parts to this story was that until an arrest had been made for the crime, Republican politicians from Ohio, including the Ohio Attorney General, claimed the story was fabricated. The Ohio State Legislature did not make any changes to their abortion laws, despite the fact that a young girl’s life had been in danger as a direct result.
The Ohio case has been a point of focus for both pro-choice and anti-choice groups in the United States. Pro-choice groups have used it as an example of why extreme abortion laws are ineffective and harmful for women, while anti-choice groups have used the case of the 10-year-old girl in Ohio to reinforce their beliefs that abortion should be illegal in all cases, no exceptions.
The one thing that became very clear after this election in Ohio is that Republicans have a problem: the American public does not support their extreme abortion laws. Even more importantly, voters in Ohio would rather have abortion unrestricted up until 22 weeks of pregnancy than a six-week ban. This point cannot be understated because statistics have shown that most Americans support unrestricted access through the first trimester, but their views get more conservative as the stages of pregnancy advance – for example, most Americans believe that there should be some restrictions at some point during the second trimester of pregnancy, which falls from week 13 to week 27 of pregnancy. The Ohio 22-week mark is right in the middle of that second trimester. Typically, 20 weeks is where most Americans draw the line, although statistics show that they still support exceptions after 20 weeks.
Moving forward, more states including Arizona will have similar measures in 2024, and it will be interesting to see if the trend we have seen in Kansas, Montana, and now Ohio will continue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi! My name is Annabella and I am currently a sophomore at Marymount University where I am studying political science. During the Spring 2023 term, I had the privilege of interning with Representative Derek Kilmer and upon graduation intend to stay in DC to pursue a career in politics. When I am not in DC, you can find me in the “other Washington,” Washington state, where I am from.