Ohio votes to enshrine abortion rights into state constitution

Ohio is now projected to join Kansas and Kentucky among Republican-leaning states to enshrine abortion rights into law.
Posted at 7:18 AM, Nov 07, 2023

Voters in Ohio agreed Tuesday to protect access to abortion services with an amendment to the state constitution, Scripps News and Decision Desk HQ project.

Issue 1 as approved overrides the state's ban on abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy. 

Issue 1 allows doctors to legally perform abortions up until "fetal viability," which is defined as "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." Fetal viability varies, but this standard will generally permit abortions up through at least 21 or 22 weeks of a pregnancy. 

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, Ohio triggered a law that essentially prohibits an abortion after the sixth week of a pregnancy. That law, however, has been held up in the courts, and it's unclear what would happen if the courts overturn it. 

Advocates for Issue 1 say the newly approved measure will go beyond abortions to enshrine a host of reproductive rights, including contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and continuing pregnancy. 

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"Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms — and democracy won," said President Joe Biden in a statement following the measure's projected adoption. "In Ohio, voters protected access to reproductive health in their state constitution. 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. This extreme and dangerous agenda is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans. My Administration will continue to protect access to reproductive health care and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law once and for all."

Those opposing  the bill included Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who won reelection last year with 62% of the vote. 

Ohio lawmakers don't have the direct power to amend the state's constitution; that has to be done by voters. Constitutional amendments supersede the Ohio Revised Code, meaning that because Issue 1 has passed, lawmakers have little say in future abortion and reproductive rights policies.