Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment protecting access to abortion on Tuesday.
The amendment also protects access to other types of reproductive healthcare, including contraception, fertility treatment, and miscarriage care.
The measure, known as Issue 1, passed with roughly 57% of the vote, making Ohio the seventh state to protect the right to abortion or to push back on abortion restrictions.
Ohio was the only state to present an abortion rights ballot question in this year’s election, drawing millions in donor funding from both proponents and critics. Last year, voters in six other states came down on the side of protecting access to abortion.
“Despite the significant challenges we faced from our opposition’s disinformation campaign and attempts to suppress votes, Ohioans made it clear once and for all that abortion rights are a constitutional right,” said Erica Wilson-Domer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, and Lauren Blauvelt, the group’s executive director, in a press release.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, anti-abortion advocates, including Ohio’s Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), claimed a vote for Issue 1 was a vote for “abortion-on-demand,” and conservative legal experts called it a “Trojan horse” for gender ideology in an editorial for the Heritage Foundation.
In reality, “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health,” according to the amendment.
Physicians played a key role in passing the amendment. In 2022, abortion providers sued the state, challenging its 6-week ban.
Caitlin Bernard, MD, an ob/gyn in Indiana, brought Ohio’s 6-week ban into the spotlight after a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio was compelled to secure a medication-induced abortion in Indiana in July 2022. Bernard was reprimanded by her state’s medical board for speaking publicly about the case.
President Biden applauded Tuesday’s referendum as a win for democratic principles.
“Tonight, Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms — and democracy won,” he said in a press statement. “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.”
On the other side, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, panned the ballot measure as a sham.
“Issue 1 passed because abortion activists and outside Democrat donors ran a campaign of fear to Ohio voters: vote for this ballot measure or women will die,” she said in a press release. “Their pervasive lie that women will die without Issue 1 was propped up by massive ad spending, funded by George Soros and a left-wing media machine which operated like Planned Parenthood’s PR department.”
“The media failed to fact-check this obvious lie and reveal the black-and-white truth in Ohio’s law, which clearly allows pregnant women to receive emergency care,” she added.
Eleven other states could see abortion referendums during their elections next year.