By Kate Scanlon
(OSV News) — Ohio voters Nov. 7 approved Issue 1, a measure that will codify abortion access in the state’s constitution through fetal viability, typically understood to be 24 weeks gestation, according to an NBC News projection of the results. The loss marks another electoral defeat for anti-abortion ballot measures in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.
The measure, advanced by the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, will legalize abortion up to the point of fetal viability — the gestational maturity at which a baby may be capable of living outside the uterus — and beyond, if a physician decided an abortion was necessary for the sake of the mother’s life or health.
Although Ohio lawmakers enacted a six-week abortion ban that is not being enforced amid a legal challenge, the passage of Issue 1 will likely block its implementation.
Supporters of the measure argued it would return the state to the legal standard set prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Opponents argued the measure would go further than that through its definition of fetal viability, which states viability would be determined on “a case-by-case basis.”
Some proponents argued that failure to enact the measure could criminalize miscarriage care. In an Oct. 13 statement, the Ohio Catholic Conference pushed back on such claims, arguing that “over thirty Catholic hospitals, providing care to millions of patients in Ohio, affirm their commitment to delivering comprehensive healthcare for women and preborn children during pregnancy complications.”
In a Nov. 7 social media post, Ohio’s Republican Sen. J.D. Vance urged the state to “Vote NO on Issue 1!”
“There’s been a lot of lies out there from the Yes campaign,” Vance wrote. “People do in fact abort healthy late term pregnancies. Issue 1 doesn’t make it illegal to have a miscarriage. Think for yourself and vote no!”
Meanwhile, Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote, “I trust Ohio women to make their own health care decisions and that is a right I will always fight for in the Senate. Vote YES on Issue One.”
Ohio voters previously rejected in August another ballot initiative that would have raised the threshold for passing constitutional amendments to 60% of voters, leaving in place the state’s requirement of 50% plus one vote. That measure, which was seen as a proxy for the November election, would have made passing Issue 1 more difficult. But early returns on the evening of Nov. 7 indicated that even with a higher threshold the measure may still have passed.
The results are similar to recent polling of the contest. An Oct. 17 Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll found that 58% of likely Ohio voters for the Nov. 7 election support passage of Issue 1. Day-of exit polling showed similar results.
The election was contentious in the state. In October, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati released a statement saying that “numerous accounts of theft and vandalism have been reported to police at Catholic schools, churches and cemeteries across the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
“Dozens of Catholic properties have been displaying yard signs and large display signs opposing Issue 1 on the November ballot,” the statement said. “Many of these locations have reported instances of theft of the signs and, in some instances, vandalism of their property.”
More than a dozen other church properties, Catholic high schools and cemeteries have reported theft of Vote No yard signs, the statement added.