Proposed constitutional change before Ohio voters could determine abortion rights in the state

by Madison Thomas
Abortion Rights

A hurried and emotionally charged special election on Tuesday in Ohio might shape the future of abortion rights in the state and could affect national political strategies for 2024. The election features Issue 1 on the ballot, which if passed, would increase the requirement for future amendments to Ohio’s constitution from a simple majority to a 60% vote. This proposal is mainly targeted at a planned constitutional amendment set for November, aiming to guarantee reproductive health care rights in the state’s foundational law.

The proposal has drawn substantial voter interest, with nearly 700,000 early and mail-in ballots cast, doubling the early vote count from Ohio’s last two midterm primary elections in 2022 and 2018. Historically, Ohio’s August elections have centered around local issues and experienced consistently low participation.

Republicans supporting Issue 1 insist that the intention is not to obstruct the forthcoming abortion amendment, even though it includes the reinstatement of an August special election previously voted to be abolished. Increasing the passing requirement for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments might hinder, if not outright prevent, the success of the fall proposal, according to poll numbers. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, several states have upheld abortion rights, though generally with less than 60% support.

Last year, AP VoteCast polling found that 59% of Ohio voters believe abortion should typically be legal. Funds from both in-state and out-of-state have flooded the contest over the 60% threshold, with both sides asserting a goal to limit special interests’ sway over state policies.

Proponents and opponents of Issue 1 have waged campaigns focusing on various concerns, such as political influence, redistricting, and the impact on ordinary Ohioans. Abortion rights, however, remain central to the dispute, as Ohio, like other states, now has control over its abortion laws following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. An existing ban on most abortions in Ohio has been temporarily allowed and then frozen again due to ongoing legal challenges.

The proposed abortion amendment aims to empower individuals to make personal decisions regarding reproductive health, including contraception, fertility treatments, abortion, and miscarriage care, up until fetal viability. But a wide range of bipartisan opposition to Issue 1 exists, including former state officials who denounce the change as unsound governance. If accepted, it would roll back 111 years of direct democracy, potentially impacting future citizen-led ballot efforts.

Misleading advertisements and fear tactics have characterized the campaigns, with Protect Women Ohio, a group against the abortion question, spending millions on the August election. They have aired commercials suggesting the measure might pressure children into gender-affirming care and undermine parental rights, claims that legal experts say have no basis in the amendment’s text.

Opponents of Issue 1 have also run ads and organized a broad coalition involving voting rights, labor, faith, and community groups, plus the state’s Democratic Party. The reinstatement of the August special election, eliminated last year due to historically low turnout, has led to a failed lawsuit alleging this year’s election violates the new law, further casting doubts if it was revived solely to hinder abortion rights in Ohio.

The Big Big News receives backing from several private foundations for enriched coverage of elections and democracy, while the AP retains full responsibility for the content. Samantha Hendrickson, affiliated with Big Big News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative, contributed to this report. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported subjects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Ohio special election

What is Issue 1 in the Ohio special election?

Issue 1 is a proposal on the Ohio special election ballot that aims to raise the threshold for passing future changes to the state’s constitution from a simple majority to 60%. The proposal is seen by many as having the potential to impact a forthcoming constitutional amendment that calls for enshrining access to reproductive care in the state’s foundational document.

What is the voter turnout like for the special election?

The voter turnout for the special election has been significant, with nearly 700,000 early and mail-in ballots cast. This number is more than double the early vote during the state’s two previous midterm primary elections in 2022 and 2018.

How could Issue 1 affect abortion rights in Ohio?

If Issue 1 passes, it could make it difficult or impossible for a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which aims to enshrine access to reproductive care, to succeed. The new threshold would require 60% approval, and this could have implications for abortion rights in the state.

What are the main arguments for and against Issue 1?

Supporters of Issue 1, including Republican officeholders, argue that raising the threshold will prevent special interest groups from pushing policies on Ohio. The opposition, including a broad bipartisan coalition, argues that it would prioritize conservative GOP interests over those of everyday voters and reverse a long-standing tradition of direct democracy.

Have there been any legal challenges related to the special election?

Yes, the reinstatement of an August special election, after lawmakers voted to eliminate summer elections due to low turnout, prompted an unsuccessful lawsuit. The suit alleged that this year’s August special election violated the new law and raised questions about whether it was brought back solely to thwart abortion rights in Ohio.

Who are the key players in the campaign around Issue 1?

Several groups and political figures are involved in the campaign around Issue 1. The campaign in favor is called “Protect Our Constitution,” and the opposition campaign is named “One Person One Vote.” Various voting rights, labor, faith, and community groups are also involved, as well as the state Democratic Party and former Ohio governors and attorneys general.

What does the proposed abortion amendment entail?

The proposed abortion amendment aims to give individuals the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions, including on contraception, fertility treatment, abortion, and miscarriage care, until a fetus is viable outside the womb.

What misinformation has been observed during the campaigns?

Several legal experts have noted misinformation during the campaigns. One example is the airing of ads by Protect Women Ohio suggesting the measure could pressure children into receiving gender-affirming care and undercut parental rights, claims that are unsupported by the amendment’s language.

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Tom B August 8, 2023 - 10:22 am

Abortion rights are at the epicentr of this fight. It’s about so much more than a simple percentage change. Its a battle of ideals, our freedom and rights. I hope people see that!

Sara-Lee August 8, 2023 - 12:03 pm

I’m torn on this Issue 1, raising the threshold might keep special interests at bay but it might hurt the common folk’s voice in government. what do you all think?

Dylan R August 8, 2023 - 7:05 pm

Ohio voter here, and i must say this special election feels like a big deal, the energy around it’s different. More people I know are talking bout it and even voting early.

Katie T August 8, 2023 - 11:16 pm

I’m all for protecting the constitution, but this Issue 1 seems to prioritize the interest of GOP? I need more info to make a sound decision.

Jake M August 9, 2023 - 12:42 am

I can’t belive what’s happenin with Ohio politics these days! Abortion rights shoud be a personal choice. Why make it harder to change the constitution?


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