Ohioans go to the polls Tuesday for vote that could determine abortion laws

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Pro-life organizations are urging Ohioans to vote yes on tomorrow’s referendum that would change the way constitutional amendments are adopted in the state. Early voting has been heavy, with more than 570,000 votes cast — a high turnout for an off-year August election.

Issue 1 would raise the threshold needed to adopt a constitutional amendment via ballot initiative from a simple majority to 60%. 

Although Issue 1 would not directly affect any issues other than the constitutional amendment adoption process, it has become a proxy fight for a variety of political issues, which include abortion, minimum wage, and gun control. Individuals and political interest groups have spent about $20 million for or against the initiative and about 84% of that money came from out of state. 

The current 50% plus one threshold has been used by interest groups to push for policies that would likely not pass through the Legislature or be signed by the governor.

Pro-abortion advocates, who have not had success in expanding abortion through the elected Legislature, are trying to do just that in November. Ohioans will vote on a Nov. 7 referendum that proposes amending the constitution to declare “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”

The proposed pro-abortion amendment would only allow the state to regulate abortion once the child is “viable.” This usually occurs at about 24 weeks, but the amendment language allows the treating physician, who will oftentimes be the abortionist, to determine whether the unborn child is viable on a case-by-case basis. The amendment also does not establish an age limit for this right, which some fear would strip away parental rights when a minor is seeking an abortion. 

Those urging a yes vote on the Aug. 8 Issue 1 ballot initiative, such as pro-life groups, argue that raising the threshold would make such efforts more difficult and put up safeguards to prevent out-of-state money from being used to hijack the ballot initiative process in Ohio. 

“Passing Issue 1 may be the only move left to stop the abortion lobby from enshrining state-sanctioned murder into our constitution,” Elizabeth Marbach, a spokesperson for Ohio Right to Life, told CNA. 

“Lives [are] on the line, and they depend on every one of us to get to vote yes tomorrow on Issue 1,” Marbach said. “By raising the threshold, we not only protect the right to life ... this November but we send a clear message that our constitution is not for sale.”

The pro-life organization Protect Women Ohio funded a last-minute advertisement push last week that also encouraged Ohioans to vote yes on Issue 1.

“We must defeat Issue 1 in August so we can restore reproductive freedom in November!” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio posted on X, formerly called Twitter. 

“Protect our rights and the sacred principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” a graphic included in the post read. “Stop special interests from ending majority rule.” 

Other organizations supporting Issue 1 include the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, School Choice Ohio Alliance, the Buckeye Firearms Association, various business associations, and the free-market Buckeye Institute.  

The groups who oppose Issue 1 include several pro-abortion organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Pro-Choice Ohio, and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom. A variety of other groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety, the Human Rights Campaign, and various unions also oppose Issue 1. 

In addition to this November’s abortion initiative, the results of Issue 1 would impact a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2028, which could appear on the November 2024 ballots. 

Early voting ended on Sunday, Aug. 6. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 8, for election-day voting. Ohioans can find their polling location on the Secretary of State’s website. As of Aug. 3, which is the most recent update provided by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, at least 578,490 people have already voted. 

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