COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio voters have approved a measure to establish the right to abortion in the state constitution, the Associated Press projects, making the state the latest to protect access to the procedure since the fall of Roe v. Wade.
While results will continue to trickle in, it appears that Issue 1 has passed, constitutionally enshrining the right of Ohioans to make decisions about abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and pregnancy. By the time the AP called the race at 9 p.m., 57.8% of voters approved the ballot initiative with 36% of precincts reporting.
The amendment will take effect in 30 days, per Ohio law. Upon its enactment, it would prohibit limits on abortion before fetal viability.
Any prohibitions on abortion after fetal viability – generally accepted as between 22-24 weeks gestation but would be determined by an individual’s doctor – would not apply should the pregnant person’s health or life be at risk.
Who voted ‘yes’?
A coalition of reproductive rights and social justice organizations rallied behind the amendment, including the ACLU of Ohio, Equality Ohio, the Ohio Women’s Alliance and Pro Choice Ohio. The state’s Democratic lawmakers also expressed their support, including Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, House Minority Leader Allison Russo and other minority party leadership.
Medical professionals and medical students also publicly supported Issue 1, including the groups Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Ohio chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Tonight, we’ve spoken and we stand here united as Ohioans in a historic victory across the state. We’re going to bed knowing that we own our own bodies,” Dr. Marcela Azevedo, co-founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, told a crowd of Issue 1 supporters while wiping away tears.
“The impact of passing Issue 1 will be felt throughout the state and for generations and generations to come,” she continued.
Supporters of the amendment claimed 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 was the possible re-implementation of the state’s six-week abortion ban, which is currently held up in court.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said “democracy won” with Issue 1’s passage.
Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalize doctors and nurses for providing the health care that their patients need and that they are trained to provide,” Biden said. “This extreme and dangerous agenda is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans.”
Who voted ‘no’?
Many of Ohio’s statewide officers, all Republicans, publicly opposed Issue 1. Gov. Mike DeWine – who signed the six-week abortion ban into law – has long opposed abortion access. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is also running for U.S. Senate, was among the most vocal opponents of the abortion amendment, even before it was placed on the ballot.
Leading up to an August vote on whether to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution, LaRose told supporters that that vote was “100%” about abortion and other progressive policies, including raising the minimum wage and legalizing recreational cannabis.
Opponents of the abortion amendment made numerous, sometimes dubious claims about the impact the amendment may have on parental consent requirements and gender affirming care. Those against the amendment also criticized the post-viability exceptions for the health and life of the mother, arguing that placing that determination in the hands of medical professionals would allow “painful” abortions “up until birth.”
“Our hearts are broken tonight not because we lost an election, but because Ohio families, women and children will bear the brunt of this vote,” Protect Women Ohio, the campaign behind opposition to the amendment, said in a statement.
In a statement, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said he remains “steadfastly committed” to opposing abortion.
“The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life,” Stephens said. “This is not the end of the conversation.”
What is the current status of abortion in Ohio?
With the state’s six-week ban on hold, abortion is currently legal through 21 weeks gestation, or 21 weeks after the first day of a pregnant person’s last menstrual cycle. Medication abortion is available through 10 weeks gestation.
Ohio has nine abortion clinics spread across the state’s urban areas, with three providing only medication abortions. Of clinics that do provide abortion procedures, three provide the procedure up until the legal limit, with others offering it until 15 to 19 weeks gestation.
About 20,600 abortions were performed in Ohio in 2022, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Nearly three-quarters of abortions occurred within nine weeks gestation. About half a percent of abortions – or 113 – occurred after 21 weeks.
Data from the Society of Family Planning and the Guttmacher Institute suggest that the rate of abortions has not rapidly increased but has recovered from a significant drop in the month or so that Ohio’s six-week ban was in effect.
Even with stable numbers, the need for financial and logistical support to obtain abortions has increased exponentially. A record number of patients have sought the statewide abortion fund’s services in 2023, with demand for the fund eclipsing all of 2022 by late August. Restrictions in neighboring states since the fall of Roe v. Wade have increased out-of-state demand for procedures in Ohio, the fund told NBC4 in August.
Regardless of Issue 1’s passage, the Ohio Supreme Court will rule in the coming months whether a preliminary injunction on the six-week ban can remain in effect while the law’s constitutionality is challenged in court. When the amendment takes effect in 30 days, however, the ban would be in direct violation.