COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In a final push before the special election on Aug. 8, an anti-abortion rights group is spending $5.5 million on ads in favor of Issue 1.
If it passes, Issue 1 would require a 60% vote to pass future amendments to Ohio’s constitution, instead of the simple majority required under current law. It would also require petitioners to collect signatures from all 88 Ohio counties to bring a proposed amendment to a vote in the first place, instead of 44 counties.
When Ohioans head back to the polls in November, they will vote on an amendment to protect abortion access, more than likely linking the outcome of the special election to Ohio’s abortion laws.
Of the $5.5 million ad buy, a committee called Protect Women Ohio spent $4.5 million to run a pair of similar commercials.
Each ad features a mom who says they’re concerned that abortion rights groups will change Ohio’s constitution in ways they don’t like if Issue 1 fails.
“It’s going to make it harder for a lot of these radical groups to come into our state and make changes to our constitution,” says April Hunter, the woman starring in one of the ads.
The groups Hunter is referring to are the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality (URGE).
Both non-profits publicly oppose Issue 1 and support the proposed amendment to protect abortion rights in Ohio.
Vivina Napier, a gynecologist and the mom starring in the second ad, also refers to the two groups.
“The groups that oppose Issue 1 brag on social media about abolishing parental rights,” Napier says, as images of tweets from both organizations appear briefly on screen.
Hunter’s ad shows some of the same tweets, all expressing opposition to what URGE calls “parental involvement laws.”
The sole tweet from ACLU Ohio says, “We OPPOSE HB 8. If passed, this legislation would require parents to be notified of any change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health, including gender identity.”
The bill, passed by the Ohio House earlier this year, is also referred to as the Parents’ Bill of Rights. It requires public schools to notify parents of healthcare matters involving their children, as well as “instructional materials with sexuality content.”
The tweets from the Washington, DC-based URGE also dissent to similar policies, but do not mention Ohio specifically.
One 2020 tweet shown in Napier’s ad refers to a Florida policy.
“We think it’s really important to highlight where they stand on the issues,” said Protect Women Ohio spokesperson Amy Natoce.
Although parental notification or consent are not specifically mentioned in the proposed abortion amendment, it is Protect Women Ohio’s position that those concepts are implied.
“(The proposed abortion amendment) says that the state shall not burden or interfere with an individual’s reproductive decisions on its face,” Natoce said. “That is saying that nothing should get in the way of somebody’s reproductive choices. That includes parental consent laws.”
Freda Levenson, the legal director of ACLU Ohio, said in an April interview that claim is simply not true.
“Everyone knows that the rights that adult citizens have under the constitution are more extensive than rights for minors,” Levenson.
URGE did not respond to requests for comment. A July 31 tweet from the organization’s account says the “staff will be observing a week of intentional rest from July 31-Aug 4. We’re hoping to come back refreshed and rejuvenated to continue fighting for reproductive justice.”
Keep up with the latest on Ohio’s August special election at Your Local Election HQ.