Ohio’s Issue 1 targets unborn children all nine months, Cincinnati archbishop says

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A pro-abortion-rights measure on Ohio’s November ballot will be numbered Issue 1, state officials announced Thursday. However, the archbishop of Cincinnati has warned that if the measure becomes law it will result in zero rights for the unborn child, among other serious consequences.

The Ohio Ballot Board, chaired by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, approved the ballot language on Thursday. To qualify the proposal for the ballot, backers submitted more than 700,000 signatures, of which 496,000 were valid, The Hill reported. 

The measure, titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety,” would grant strong legal protections to abortion, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati warned.

“This amendment could harm women by eliminating safety regulations on abortion clinics in Ohio, harm families by removing the rights of parents to consent to abortion or other reproductive decisions of their minor children, and enable the abortion of preborn children in the womb up to nine months,” he said Aug. 24.

“Policies such as these have no place in the constitution of our state. I urge Catholics and all people of goodwill to oppose this very harmful amendment,” he said.

The proposal would add another section to the Ohio Constitution’s Bill of Rights to include a right to “reproductive freedom.” If passed by voters this November, the constitution would read “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.” This would include, but not be limited to, abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing one’s pregnancy.

The Catholic Conference of Ohio said in a statement that it “firmly opposes” Issue 1 on the grounds that “this extreme amendment endangers the health and safety of women, threatens parental rights, and allows for abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.”

“The Catholic Church has always advocated for and acted to protect the most vulnerable in society, including the indigent, migrants, and preborn children in the womb,” the Catholic Conference continued. “We will continue to do so by explaining the harms Issue 1 poses to women, parents, and babies with Catholics and all people of goodwill across Ohio and encourage a no vote on this egregious proposal.”

The Republican-controlled ballot board approved summary language emphasizing the term “unborn child” and minimizing limits on abortion, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The official Issue 1 summary reads: “The proposed amendment would always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health.”

Democrats said the wording was unfair and inaccurate. 

State Rep. Elliot Forhan, D-South Euclid, said the approved language reflects personal viewpoints in its use of terms such as “unborn child” instead of “fetus.” Democrats had sought to substitute this language but failed on a party-line vote, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

If the ballot measure is approved, lawmakers would only be allowed to restrict abortion “after fetal viability,” which is defined as the point in pregnancy at which the child could survive outside of the uterus. This usually occurs at about 22-24 weeks of pregnancy but would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Lawmakers would not be allowed to impose any restrictions in cases where a physician determines an abortion is “necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

The amendment would further prohibit the government from directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, prohibiting, interfering with, or discriminating against “an individual’s voluntary exercise of this right” or “a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right.”

The amendment allows some regulations meant to protect a person’s health and safety, as long as it uses “the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.”

The Ohio Catholic Conference said voters should have better options.

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“Ohioans deserve just laws which provide expansive resources and accompaniment to mothers and young families, not proposals like Issue 1, which does nothing to support women,” it said.

A proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, known as Issue 2, will also be on the November ballot.

Voters only need a majority to amend the state constitution. In a special Aug. 8 election, Ohioan voters defeated a measure to raise the approval threshold to 60% of the vote. That measure was also named Issue 1.

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