Ohioans Reject GOP Attempt to Thwart Abortion Rights Vote

Ohio voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it harder to amend the state constitution through ballot initiatives, paving the way for a November vote on protecting abortion rights in the state.

Abortion Rights Vote

What was Issue 1 and why did it fail?

Issue 1 was a proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the threshold for approving future changes to the state constitution from a simple majority (50%, plus one vote) to 60%. It would have also required that at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties approve the amendment by a simple majority.

The measure was widely seen as an attempt by GOP lawmakers and anti-abortion groups to thwart a ballot initiative that seeks to enshrine abortion access in the Ohio Constitution. The initiative, known as the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom Amendment, would prohibit the state from restricting or interfering with a person’s right to abortion care.

Issue 1 faced strong opposition from a broad coalition of civil rights, labor, environmental, and reproductive rights groups, who argued that it would undermine the power of Ohio voters and make it harder to pass reforms on issues such as health care, education, criminal justice, and clean energy.

The opponents of Issue 1 also accused the GOP of rushing the measure to a special election in August, when voter turnout is typically low, instead of waiting for the general election in November. They said this was a deliberate attempt to suppress the voices of Ohioans who support abortion rights and other progressive causes.

According to the Associated Press, Issue 1 failed by a margin of 56.6% to 43.4%, with about 97% of precincts reporting. Nearly 700,000 Ohioans voted early, either in-person or by mail, surpassing the number of early votes cast in the May 2022 primary election.

What does this mean for abortion rights in Ohio?

The defeat of Issue 1 is a major victory for abortion rights advocates, who have been fighting against a wave of restrictive laws and policies enacted by the Republican-controlled state legislature and governor in recent years. Ohio is one of the most hostile states for abortion access in the country, with only nine clinics remaining and several laws that ban abortion at various stages of pregnancy and impose mandatory waiting periods, counseling, and ultrasounds on patients.

The Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom Amendment aims to protect abortion rights in the state regardless of what happens at the federal level, where the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The amendment would also invalidate any existing or future state laws that restrict or interfere with abortion access.

The amendment has already gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, where it will face another challenge from anti-abortion groups and politicians who oppose it. However, a recent poll from the USA Today Network and Suffolk University found that 58% of Ohio voters support the effort to enshrine abortion access in the state’s founding document.

How did President Biden and other leaders react?

President Biden, who supports abortion rights and has vowed to defend them against attacks from state legislatures and the Supreme Court, praised Ohio voters for rejecting Issue 1 and standing up for democracy.

“By rejecting Issue 1, Ohioans rejected special interests and demanded that democracy remain where it belongs — in the hands of voters, not the rich and powerful,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday night. “This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.”

Other Democratic leaders and organizations also celebrated the outcome of the special election and expressed their support for the abortion rights amendment in November.

“Tonight’s victory is proof that when we organize, we win,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. “Ohio voters sent a clear message: they won’t stand for politicians playing games with their constitutional rights. We look forward to working with our partners on the ground to pass the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom Amendment this fall and secure every person’s right to make their own decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures.”

“Today’s vote is a resounding rejection of Republican efforts to rig our democracy and silence our voices,” said Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. “Ohioans know that our constitution belongs to us — not politicians or special interests. And we will continue to fight for our right to vote on issues that matter to us — like protecting our health care and reproductive freedom.”

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