Ohio Voters Reject Issue 1, a Setback for Anti-Abortion Efforts

Ohio voters on Tuesday decisively rejected a ballot measure that would have made it harder to amend the state constitution, a victory for abortion rights advocates who are preparing for a November vote on a constitutional amendment to protect access to abortion.

What was Issue 1 and why did it matter?

Issue 1 was the only statewide measure on the special election ballot on Tuesday. It proposed to raise the threshold for approving constitutional amendments initiated by citizens from a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to 60%. It also would have imposed new requirements for collecting signatures and challenging them in court.

Issue 1 was widely seen as an attempt by Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion groups to block the passage of a constitutional amendment that would establish an affirmative right to abortion and other reproductive health care in Ohio. The amendment, known as the Ohio Abortion Access Amendment, is expected to be on the ballot in November, after supporters collected enough signatures to qualify it.

Ohio Voters Reject Issue 1, a Setback for Anti-Abortion Efforts
Ohio Voters Reject Issue 1, a Setback for Anti-Abortion Efforts

The amendment would counteract the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The ruling left the issue of abortion regulation to the states, and Ohio is one of several states that have passed laws restricting or banning abortion in recent years.

Abortion rights supporters say the amendment is necessary to protect access to abortion and other reproductive health care in Ohio, especially for low-income women and women of color who face more barriers to obtaining care. They argue that the amendment would also prevent future attempts by lawmakers or courts to undermine abortion rights.

How did Ohioans vote on Issue 1?

According to unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, Issue 1 was rejected by 57% of voters, with 43% voting in favor. The measure failed in all but six of Ohio’s 88 counties, with most of the opposition coming from urban and suburban areas. The turnout was about 23%, higher than expected for a special election.

The rejection of Issue 1 was a blow to Republican leaders and anti-abortion groups who had campaigned for it, arguing that it would prevent special interests from changing the state constitution without broad support from voters. They also claimed that Issue 1 would protect the integrity of Ohio’s initiative process, which has been in place since 1912.

Some of the prominent supporters of Issue 1 included Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2024; Attorney General Dave Yost; House Speaker Bob Cupp; Senate President Matt Huffman; and Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization.

What does the outcome of Issue 1 mean for the abortion rights amendment?

The defeat of Issue 1 means that the abortion rights amendment will face a lower bar for approval in November. It will need only a simple majority of votes to pass, instead of 60%. It also means that the supporters of the amendment will not have to collect more signatures or face more legal challenges to get it on the ballot.

The outcome of Issue 1 also suggests that Ohio voters are more supportive of abortion rights than some Republican leaders and anti-abortion groups had assumed. A recent poll by USA Today Network and Suffolk University found that 58% of Ohio voters support the abortion rights amendment, while 32% oppose it and 10% are undecided.

The supporters of the amendment, who include Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, ACLU of Ohio, and other reproductive rights and justice organizations, celebrated the rejection of Issue 1 as a sign of momentum for their cause. They said they will continue to educate voters about the importance of the amendment and mobilize them to vote in November.

However, they also expect a fierce opposition from anti-abortion groups and Republican lawmakers, who have vowed to defeat the amendment and defend Ohio’s anti-abortion laws. They said they are prepared for a costly and contentious campaign that could have national implications for the future of abortion rights.

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