COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — NBC4 Investigates continues its project to hold political advertisers accountable, fact-checking a 30-second ad now running on television stations across Ohio, including NBC4.
The ad was paid for by Protect Women Ohio, a group formed to advocate against an amendment expected to appear on November’s ballot, which would add the right to an abortion to the Ohio constitution.
The new ad doesn’t mention abortion. Instead, it urges voters to approve Issue 1 — the sole question on the August 8th ballot.
Issue 1 makes amending Ohio’s constitution more difficult by increasing the percentage of votes needed to pass an amendment from a simple majority to 60%. Supporters of Issue 1, including Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, have said they wanted Ohioans to vote on it before November to decrease the chances of an abortion amendment passing.
The commercial, titled “Your Promise,” opens with the image of a young girl being tucked into bed. A female narrator says, “You promised to keep the bad guys away. Protect her. Now’s your chance. Out-of-state special interests that put trans ideology in classrooms and encourage sex-changes for kids are hiding behind slick ads. Don’t be fooled.”
Breaking down the claims
-What are “out-of-state special interests?”
The group is talking about Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. Both nonprofits are headquartered in New York with operations in Ohio. Both have also advocated to protect abortion rights and encouraged Ohio voters to reject Issue 1.
-Do those organizations “put trans ideology in classrooms?”
This claim was made over video of a drag queen story time.
While Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill banning public drag performances, drag performances are not part of any issue on the November ballot.
“Transgender surgeries and allowing for that type of activity of our children is [on the ballot], so this ad exposes that,” said Mehek Cooke, a spokeswoman for Protect Women Ohio.
Election officials are still certifying signatures collected to put an abortion amendment on the ballot.
Performing in drag and identifying as transgender are not the same, as many drag performers identify as cisgender and have not sought out any gender-related care.
“There seems to be this belief that it’s something that’s contagious or you can make somebody be trans or make somebody be LGBTQ,” said Erin Upchurch, the executive director of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, which advocates for LGBTQ youth in Columbus. “It’s a lot of fear. You cannot make someone trans. You cannot make somebody LGBTQ.”
-Are Issue 1 opponents “[encouraging] sex-changes for kids?”
The proposed abortion rights amendment would give Ohioans the right “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to . . . contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.”
According to Cooke, “including but not limited to” is the operative phrase.
“‘Including but not limited to’ means that you are also allowing for sex change, gender affirming care, and all those surgeries,” Cooke said.
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood say gender-affirming care is separate from reproductive care. Protect Women Ohio considers them the same.
“Our amendment does not provide a right to a sex change operation for a minor, or indeed for anyone,” said Freda Levenson, the legal director for the ACLU of Ohio.
“A series of misleading descriptions”
Steve Steinglass, Dean Emeritus of Cleveland State University’s law school, is a leading expert on Ohio’s constitution and co-authored a book about the document. He has also written op-eds about Issue 1, arguing that it would make governing more difficult for lawmakers in the statehouse to amend the constitution.
Steinglass said amending Ohio’s constitution is already a difficult process; 71 constitutional amendments have been on the ballot since 1912 and only 19 were approved by voters. He also pointed to the fact that there are no proposed constitutional amendments addressing gender-affirming care or drag performances.
“The message [of the ad] is if Issue 1 doesn’t pass, all of these horrible things are going to happen down the road,” Steinglass said. “We’re going to have an amendment mandating sex changes for kids. I mean, it’s even hard to understand what they’re talking about. They’re trying to set up a series of misleading descriptions of what might happen to try to get people to support Issue 1, but I don’t think it has any relationship to reality.”