COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Abortion rights will soon be enshrined in the state’s constitution, and while the amendment goes into effect in less than 30 days, both sides of the abortion debate, leaders and lawmakers say this is not where things end.
Issue 1 is a constitutional amendment, so it supersedes other laws on the state’s books. However, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights (OURR), the group behind the amendment, said while they won last night, they know there is still work to be done.
“We have had over 31 abortion bans and restrictions that have been passed since 2011, so there is a lot of work to be done to undo those restrictions,” OURR co-chairperson Lauren Blauvelt said.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of litigation in that realm and for many years,” Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) said. “And in the meantime, you’re going to see, whether it’s the legislature or different pro-life groups, come with their own proposals.”
For example, the state’s six-week abortion ban, with no exceptions for rape or incest, is still in court.
“The judges that our case is in front of will need to drop the cases or make the decisions based off the amendment,” Blauvelt said. “It is very important that we see the new constitution be upheld in Ohio, so they have the access to abortion healthcare they deserve.”
Some Republican state representatives said that while their side lost, they do not foresee this conversation ending.
“The abortion fight has been going on since long before any of us were alive and it will probably be going on for many more years to come,” Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said. “It’s not, for most people, a black-and-white issue clearly defined. It seems like there’s a lot of gray area and it needs to be further and further spelled out.”
While lawmakers cannot directly change the amendment through legislation, Speaker of the Ohio House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said, “As a 100% pro-life conservative, I remain steadfastly committed to protecting life, and that commitment is unwavering. The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.”
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said, “Life is worth fighting for. As a grandparent of eight, the life of a baby is always worth the fight. The national abortion industry funded by wealthy out-of-state special interests spent millions to pass this radical language that goes far past abortion on demand. This isn’t the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”
Blauvelt thinks trying to take action in court, or otherwise, against Issue 1 would ignore the will of the voters.
“All I can say is I hope they listen,” she said. “I hope that they listen to the millions of Ohio voters who spoke.”
Republican lawmakers said putting the question on the ballot again, or trying to make changes where they see fit is not ignoring the voters’ will.
“Every time that something goes up before the voters, it’s going to be the will of the voters,” Ferguson said. “And the will of the voters in the November 2023 election isn’t necessarily the same as the will of the voters in the November 2024 or 2030 election.”
“They only have a chance to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no;’ they don’t have ‘yes and then modify it,’ so that’s part of the challenge when these issues get on the ballot,” Merrin said. “I think you’re just beginning to see this fight develop in the state.”
On Thursday, Democratic state representatives will introduce the Reproductive Care Act, legislation to repeal existing statutes related to abortion care and add protections related to patients and providers.