On November 7, 2023, ISSUE 1 will appear on the election ballot of all Ohioans.
This blog post gives an overview of Issue 1 as it will appear this November, discusses what voting YES and NO entails, and provides a historical discussion and timeline of the Issue.
In short, Issue 1 outlines the rights for one to make their own reproductive decisions. This includes not only the right to make decisions about abortion, but also contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy.
VOTING YES On Issue 1 supports the establishment of a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”
VOTING NO On Issue 1 opposes the state constitutional right for one to carry out their own reproductive decisions, and grants the state the power to influence those decisions.
Issue 1 comes significantly after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade--the case that originally protected abortion as a fundamental right--in June of 2022. Since that case was overturned, individual states now have the power to decide abortion laws for themselves, which Ohio did in 2022 with Ohio Senate Bill 23. In response, several Ohio groups and organizations (now Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights) got together and drafted a ballot measure that would allow Ohioans to vote on codifying abortion rights in the state constitution permanently (which later also became Issue 1).
As mentioned, it is important to understand that this proposed amendment does not just cover the rights to abortion procedures. It also protects the right for the buying and selling of contraceptives and fertility treatments, such as in vitro. Issue 1 may also affect health care decisions that have nothing to do with pregnancy, such as forms of gender-affirming operations, surgery, or hormonal treatments.
Some of the current initiative supporters include
Ohio Democratic Party
Faith Choice Ohio
Some of the initiative opponents include
Ohio Republican Party
Ohio Right to Life
Center for Christian Values
Catholic Conference of Ohio
Ohio has had a long and complicated history with abortion laws. Here is a brief timeline of abortion rights in the state over the last four years (leading up to Issue 1):
Governor DeWine signs the anti-abortion Ohio Senate Bill 23 ("Heartbeat Bill") into law. This bill would require that providers check for a fetal "heartbeat," which can be detected at 5-6 weeks of pregnancy. A detected fetal heartbeat means abortion is prohibited.
A week before Senate Bill 23 is supposed to go into effect, a federal judge blocks the 6-week abortion ban, and therefore abortion remains legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy in Ohio.
Senate Bill 260 is signed by Governor Mike DeWine, which bans doctors from using telemedicine options (i.e. remote medical treatment) in order to prescribe abortion medication to patients. This legislation is still being litigated and debated in court.
Roe is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Governor DeWine reinforces 2019 ban on abortion after six week (Senate Bill 23).
An Ohio lower court grants a preliminary injunction against Senate Bill 23’s fetal heartbeat ban. The law is no longer in effect (for now). Abortion up to 22 weeks remains legal.
House Bill 598 is proposed, which would ban all abortions with the exemption of saving the life of a pregnant woman. This law is still being debated in the house, and has not been signed into law by Governor DeWine.
House Bill 480 is proposed by the Ohio House of Representatives, which would allow private citizens to sue providers who perform or aid abortions. This bill is still yet to be debated in the House, and therefore has not moved on to the Senate or been signed into law.
In April 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court blocks restrictions on mifepristone, a drug that can be used to expel pregnancies and treat Cushing’s disease, deeming it continuously available for use nationwide.
In March 2023, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights (along with hundreds of volunteers) began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would let Ohioans directly decide if they think abortion rights should be permanently guaranteed in the state constitution. By July enough signatures had been collected, and the Ohio Attorney General gave the green light for the proposed abortion amendment to appear on the November General Election ballot. In August, the Ohio Ballot Board approved the language that would appear on the ballot. The proposed amendment would amend Article I of the Ohio Constitution by adding Section 22, titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.”
In August 2023, Ohio Republicans held a special election to decide whether the amount of votes required to alter/add state constitutional amendments should be raised (Issue 1). This would have raised the amount of support required from 50% to 60%, making abortion rights a lot harder to pass. The measure did not pass, meaning that the amount of support required to change the state constitution stays at 50% plus one vote. The abortion rights ballot initiative remained unaffected.
After Issue 1 fails to pass, Secretary of State Frank LaRose goes on to assign the abortion ballot initiative the same issue number (Issue 1) for the November election. Since LaRose has been open about his opposition to abortion rights, it is very likely that this move was done intentionally to confuse voters. Ohioans who voted no on Issue 1 in August will now need to vote yes on Issue 1 in November.
As you've probably noticed, this history is long and complicated. But it is important for all Ohio voters to understand both their options and the contexts of those options, especially when their rights are on the line. Surrounding the issue of reproductive rights in particular, there is a lot of mis- and disinformation circulating from politicians, media outlets, and special interest groups. At Cleveland VOTES, part of our mission is to keep Ohio voters informed to a point where they feel educated, confident, and empowered about the implications of their vote.
For more official language and information, visit the Ohio Supreme Court’s Page on Issue 1.