Ohio Voters Overwhelmingly Choose to Protect Abortion Rights

Despite a massive disinformation campaign, a ballot measure to codify abortion in the constitution passed in a state that voted for Donald Trump twice.

Ohio Voters Overwhelmingly Choose to Protect Abortion Rights
Abortion rights supporters celebrate the Issue 1 victory on November 7, 2023.
Photo:Getty Images

Ohio voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will codify abortion rights in the state constitution, according to the New York Times. Issue 1—which will also enshrine the right to make decisions about birth control, miscarriage care, and fertility treatment—passed by a vote of 58% to 42%, with about 40% of the ballots in. An NBC News exit poll found that 60% of Ohio voters were unhappy with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The victory came despite Republicans waging an all-out misinformation campaign on the amendment by claiming it would do things like strip parental rights and allow rapists to force survivors to have abortions.

The pro-choice position has now won in all seven states that have put abortion on the ballot since the fall of Roe, with Ohio becoming the firstaffirmative” abortion victory in a Republican-leaning state. (Previous pro-choice wins in red states like Kansas and Kentucky came via voters rejecting anti-abortion measures with a “no” vote. Affirmative abortion votes have come in the heavily Democratic states of California, Michigan, and Vermont.) In 2020, Donald Trump won 53% of the vote in Ohio to Joe Biden’s 45%.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) told reporters before the race was called that Ohioans are pro-choice. Manu Raju tweeted that Brown told him: “Ohio has a 6-week ban. The Republicans have done all they can to obscure that, to make it sound like ‘we should be doing something reasonable, let the legislators do what they want.’ Voters reject that.”

An Issue 1 campaign sign outside a polling location in Toledo, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2023. Photo:Getty (Getty Images)

Conservatives and activists desperately wanted to break their losing streak on statewide abortion votes, but Ohio lawmakers’ zeal to try to thwart the ballot measure may have come back to bite them. Buckeye state Republicans tried everything to stop Issue 1, including authorizing an August special election on whether to raise the threshold that ballot measures need to pass from 50% to 60%. That effort failed by a stunning 14 points, and it cost the anti-abortion side a lot of time, money, and goodwill with voters. (A little more than 3 million voters turned out in August for that proxy vote on abortion.)

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) stayed out of the August election, but appeared in a lecturing ad claiming that Issue 1 is “just not right for Ohio.” DeWine obscured the fact that the ballot measure would be the deciding factor in whether a six-week abortion ban he signed in 2019 would snap back into effect, and he made other absurd claims about what would happen if people voted for it. DeWine won re-election last year by 25 points, but it appears people don’t care to listen to him when it comes to bodily autonomy.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), who is running to be the Republican nominee for Senate in 2024, also got involved. He ordered the purge of nearly 27,000 inactive voters in late September but didn’t announce the move as his office has done in the past. LaRose also drafted an amendment summary that appears at the top of the ballot that replaced the word “fetus” with “unborn child.” The state Supreme Court—where Gov. DeWine’s son Patrick serves as a justice—upheld the changes, and yet the amendment still passed.

In recent weeks, pro-choice supporters did begin to worry when two major newspapers made unexpected moves: The editorial board of Cleveland.com refused to take a side—instead allowing board members to write short essays on their stance—while the board at the Toledo Blade came out against Issue 1. But it appears those actions didn’t matter.

Ohioans have been waiting to hear if the state Supreme Court will uphold the currently blocked six-week abortion ban, but now that Issue 1 passed and the right to choose an abortion will go in the state constitution, the ban has no legal legs to stand on.

National groups seized on the Ohio election as a potential turning point. David Bereit, an anti-abortion activist who founded the group 40 Days for Life said during a webcast in late October that groups like his were banking a lot on the results. “This is not just Ohio’s struggle. For all of us, this is a national tipping point moment,” he said, per Politico. “The outcome here can and will dictate the trajectory for the entire United States, whether it’s to bolster or to thwart the abortion agenda from coast to coast.” That trajectory is now decidedly pro-abortion.

Advocates in states including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, and Nevada are already working to get abortion measures on their ballots for 2024.

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