Pro-life movement steps up ground efforts to defeat Ohio abortion amendment

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As early voting continues on Ohio’s Issue 1 abortion amendment, hundreds of volunteers and workers within the pro-life movement are intensifying their efforts to reach voters through door-knocking, phone-banking, and advertisements.

“We’re really running a full-scale presidential-level campaign here in Ohio, leaving no stone unturned,” Amy Natoce, the press secretary for the pro-life coalition Protect Women Ohio, told CNA.

Early voting began on Oct. 11 for the Issue 1 initiative, which would amend the state constitution to include a right to “reproductive freedom,” including abortion.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7, but with voters already casting early ballots, “Election Day has already started and doesn’t end until the seventh,” Bryan Kemper, the coordinator of street activism for the group Priests for Life, told CNA.

“Early voting is absolutely important,” he said. 

In an effort to defeat the proposed abortion amendment, more than 50 pro-life organizations established the coalition group “Protect Women Ohio” to coordinate their efforts. Much of paid door-to-door canvassing is spearheaded by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (SBA) and much of the volunteer door-knocking and phone-banking is led by Created Equal.

Michelle Ashley, the Ohio State Director at SBA, told CNA that its canvassers have already reached 375,000 voters in the past few months across 50 counties and expect to reach half of a million voters by Election Day. 

Just this week, SBA expects its canvassers will reach 50,000 voters. The team includes nearly 200 canvassers, about 60 of whom are college students helping across fall break. 

Created Equal President Mark Harrington told CNA that more than 400 volunteers are helping with door-knocking. The group expects the volunteers to reach about 100,000 voters.

Kemper, who is on a speaking tour throughout Ohio to train activists on strategies for door-knocking and phone-banking, said a lot of the focus is on “how to combat the falsehoods that are out there” that he believes are caused by “false advertising on the other side.”

“We’re mostly trying to counter the lies that the pro-abortion side is doing,” Kemper said. “... [They are] afraid of people knowing the truth about this issue.”

Some of the claims Kemper said are false include allegations that pro-life laws would prevent miscarriage care or health care needed for ectopic pregnancies. He also said that many voters don’t realize that Issue 1 would “cement abortion as a right in the state constitution,” which he said will “eliminate all pro-life laws … through all nine months of pregnancy” and eliminate parental consent laws for abortion.

Ashley said when canvassers interact with voters, “many of them are confused,” but “the conversations have been amazing.” After canvassers explain what the amendment would do, she said about 80% of voters indicate that they will vote against the amendment. 

“We can clarify the misconceptions,” Ashley said. “We can clarify the misleading ads and information that they’re hearing.”

Similarly, Harrington said when volunteers inform voters that the proposed amendment would legalize abortion “up until the moment of birth” and parents “would not have the ability to get consent or notification … a good majority of people … would vote ‘no.’” 

He said about 72% of volunteer interactions with voters end with the voters saying they will oppose the amendment. 

Peter Range, the CEO of Ohio Right to Life, told CNA: “Ohioans’ hearts and minds are being changed on the spot as we go door to door here in Ohio.” 

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“We will be outspent by millions in advertising from out-of-state groups like Planned Parenthood and others that want taxpayer-funded abortion, but that’s why our church and civic outreach are so important to our campaign,” Range said. 

“We are a grassroots effort that believes parents should have a say in the lives of their children and who believe the preborn deserve protections, including when they are in the seventh month of development in the womb and can survive outside of their mother!”

In spite of optimism from pro-life workers, polling has consistently found that most Ohio voters support the amendment, often by 20-point margins or more. 

In the most recent Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll, more than 58% of voters, including more than 39% of Republicans, said they support the amendment. Only slightly more than one-third of voters answered that they oppose the amendment.

Pro-life efforts have struggled recently in some states. Last November, Michigan voters adopted an amendment to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitution, with support surpassing 56%. Last year, pro-life ballot initiatives failed in three Republican-dominated states: Kentucky, Kansas, and Montana. 

When asked about the polling, Natoce said the language in the polls doesn’t “take into account what is written into Issue 1” or “how extreme Issue 1 is.” She argued that “there’s still absolutely a path to victory in November.”

Similarly, Harrington said, “I think our ground game is better” and “we still think it’s a toss-up.” 

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He said they intend to release another advertisement soon, one that will run through Election Day. 

“It’s going to be close if we win,” Harrington added, “but we’re fighting like heck.” 

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