Turns out, people want more control over their own medical decisions, not less.
That was the message an overwhelming majority of voters in Ohio sent their elected officials on Tuesday, voting to enshrine the right to an abortion in their state’s constitution — despite aggressive efforts to prevent them from doing so.
The amendment that will be added to Ohio’s constitution declares: “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.”
Tuesday’s election results ensure that abortion will remain widely accessible in Ohio for the foreseeable future, a stark reversal of fortunes for women in the state. Ohio’s ban on abortion — which briefly went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 — became the subject of nationwide attention when a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel to Indiana to obtain the procedure. (The ban is currently blocked while a legal challenge makes its way through the court system.)
The vote represents another resounding victory for reproductive rights — and one that is all the sweeter because of the extraordinary lengths state officials went to confuse, mislead, and prevent voters from considering the question in the first place.
Ohio Republicans decided earlier this year to hold a special election in August, a gambit intended to raise the threshold to amend the state constitution ahead of Tuesday’s vote on abortion protections. It was a surprising and cynical decision on their part, as only a few months earlier the same GOP lawmakers had banned August special elections, declaring them to be costly, low-turnout affairs. In the end the ploy backfired: huge numbers of voters turned out and emphatically rejected the Republican proposal.
And that special election wasn’t the only roadblock Republicans threw in the way of the proposed amendment. After the August walloping, the Ohio Ballot Board, chaired by Republican Secretary of State Frank La Rose re-wrote the summary of the question put to voters substituting the medical term “fetus” to “unborn child,” among other tweaks. There were fears ahead of the vote that the new language could affect whether it passed. According to one poll, the change in framing was enough to swing 16 percent of voters against the amendment.
The Associated Press also reported that the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus communications department used taxpayer funds and a government website to spread misinformation about the ballot measure, warning of “abortion on demand” or “dismemberment of fully conscious children” if voters approved the measure.
In the end, voters saw through it. With this vote, Ohio becomes the latest in a string of Republican-controlled states where voters have indicated they want more protections for abortion, and fewer restrictions on the procedure. Last year, voters in Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana rejected proposals to further restrict abortion last year, while voters in Michigan overturned their state’s abortion ban.
The victory should further energize pro-choice organizers in other red states. There are already efforts under way to put abortion referenda on the ballot in Arizona, South Dakota, Missouri, and Florida in 2024, and, perhaps with the win in Ohio, more are soon to follow.