COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – On Tuesday, millions of Ohioans will decide whether abortion access should be a constitutionally protected right.

Issue 1 would prohibit restrictions on abortion before fetal viability and also ensures the right to make other reproductive health decisions, including about pregnancy, contraception, infertility treatment and miscarriage care. Under the amendment, restrictions on abortion after viability would be permitted, but restrictions wouldn’t apply in cases where the life or health of the pregnant person is at risk.

Ohio’s proposed abortion amendment has garnered national attention as millions of out-of-state dollars flood the campaigns for and against Issue 1. Between mailed flyers, large advertisement buys and statehouse protests, both supporters and opponents have vied for Ohioans’ votes for months leading up to Nov. 7.

What does the amendment say?

Be it Resolved by the People of the State of Ohio that Article I of the Ohio Constitution is amended to add the following Section:

Article I, Section 22. The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety

Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on:

  1. Contraception;
  2. fertility treatment;
  3. continuing one’s own pregnancy;
  4. miscarriage care; and
  5. abortion

The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either:

  1. An individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or
  2. A person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right

unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.

However, abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.

As used in this Section:

  1. “Fetal viability” means “the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.”
  2. “State” includes any governmental entity and any political subdivision.

This Section is self-executing.

Who supports Issue 1?

The campaign, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, is a coalition of reproductive rights organizations including the ACLU of Ohio, the Abortion Fund of Ohio, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, the Ohio Women’s Alliance and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.

Supporters of the amendment claim that establishing a constitutional right to the procedure is crucial to counteract the increasing slate of restrictions on the procedure the legislature has enacted into law. A specific concern raised among supporters is the possible re-implementation of the state’s six-week abortion ban, which is currently held up in court.

“In an emergency, doctors are trained to make life-saving decisions. But in Ohio, the government’s life-threatening abortion ban ties the hands of doctors, putting women at risk when complications arise later in pregnancy,” says a narrator in a pro-Issue 1 ad. “That’s why voting ‘Yes’ on 1 is critical. ‘Yes’ stops Ohio’s extreme abortion ban. ‘Yes’ keeps sensible restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy. And ‘Yes’ gets government out of the way so doctors can protect women’s lives.”

The amendment has also been endorsed by a slew of local and state organizations, including Equality Ohio, the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland and Northern Ohio, AFL-CIO Ohio, TransOhio and Ohio Citizen Action. Multiple religious groups and congregations have also pledged public support for the abortion amendment, such as Faith Choice Ohio, the United Church of Christ, the Greater Cincinnati Board of Rabbis and Catholics for Choice.

When the Ohio Senate adopted Senate Resolution 215 in early October, encouraging Ohioans to vote against Issue 1, legislators became able to advocate for against the ballot initiative. Many of Ohio’s Democratic lawmakers have since publicly called for the passage of Issue 1, including Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate.

The campaign has also received significant contributions from outside donors, including the Sixteen Thirty Fund, the Open Society Policy Center, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Oklahoma billionaire Lynn Schusterman.

Who opposes Issue 1?

The campaign against Issue 1, Protect Women Ohio, launched its attack on the amendment months before it was on the ballot. In August, Protect Women Ohio was a major campaign for an initiative to make it more difficult for citizens to amend the state constitution. That initiative, if passed, would have required the abortion amendment and others to win at least 60% of the vote to pass, up from the simple majority required for more than a century. 

Protect Women Ohio and other supporters of the August amendment argued that if it failed, the door would be held wide open for out-of-state special interest groups to pass progressive policies – specifically, protections for abortion.

After the August amendment’s strong defeat, Protect Women Ohio quickly changed course to make bold claims about the abortion amendment, including that it would allow “painful” abortions “up until birth” and would eliminate parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions or gender-affirming care, citing the use of the broad terms “reproductive rights” and “individuals” instead of women.

“Issue 1 would allow an abortion at any time during a pregnancy, and it would deny parents the right to be involved when their daughter is making the most important decision of her life,” First Lady Fran DeWine says in an ad against Issue 1.

“I know Ohioans are divided on the issue of abortion. But whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, Issue 1 is just not right for Ohio,” Gov. Mike DeWine says after her.

Ohio’s top Republican lawmakers — from DeWine to the secretary of state to members of the legislature — have campaigned heavily against the abortion amendment. A host of anti-abortion organizations and religious groups have rallied against Issue 1, including the Center for Christian Virtue, the Ohio Right to Life, the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, the Catholic dioceses of Ohio and various Black faith leaders. 

Protect Women Ohio has also received millions from out-of-state contributors, mostly from the conservative Concord Fund and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

Will Issue 1 eliminate parental consent laws?

It’s not likely. The basis for the claim comes from references to an “individual’s” right to the procedure as opposed to a “woman’s” right in the amendment, which opponents argue means those under 18 will be afforded the same right to abortion as adults. 

Ohio law currently requires minors to get parental consent or permission from a judge to undergo an abortion. Nothing in the amendment explicitly eliminates this requirement, and legal experts say the parental consent law is unlikely to be struck down if the amendment passes.

Michigan, which passed a similar amendment last November, also has a parental consent law on the books. The law has not been challenged in court – and neither have Michigan’s remaining restrictions on the procedure, including strict facility requirements, a 24-hour waiting period and bans on insurance covering the cost of abortions. The legislature introduced a series of bills that would repeal most barriers to the procedure, but the parental consent requirement was purposely left out of the package.