Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Where Things Stand on Opposition to Implementation of Ohio's New Reproductive Freedom Constitutional Amendment
Julie Carr Smyth & Christine Fernando, AP, Voters Back Abortion Rights, but Opponents Won't Relent.
As voters in state after state affirm their support for abortion rights, opponents are acting with escalating defiance toward the democratic processes and institutions they perceive as aligned against their cause.
Certain Republican elected officials and anti-abortion activists around the country have responded to losses at the ballot box by challenging election results, refusing to bring state laws into line with voter-backed changes, moving to strip state courts of their power to consider abortion-related laws and challenging the citizen-led ballot initiative process itself.
“We.Are.Not.Done.,” Ohio state Rep. Jennifer Gross declared on the social media platform X two days after voters enshrined the right to abortion in the state constitution earlier this month. She and 25 other Republican lawmakers vowed to block the amendment from reversing Ohio’s existing abortion restrictions.
A strong majority of Ohio voters passed the amendment, by roughly 57% to 43%. In response, the group of lawmakers said in a joint statement: “We will do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent.”
Gross joined three fellow Republicans to go even further, proposing legislation to prevent Ohio courts from interpreting any cases related to the abortion-rights amendment, known as Issue 1. Similar efforts have emerged in six other states since state courts became the new abortion battleground after the Dobbs decision on June 24, 2022, that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Douglas Keith, senior counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice’s Judiciary Program, said abortion politics prompted successful efforts to limit the power of state courts in Montana and Utah and unsuccessful legislation in Alaska and Kansas. Such bills are attempts to dismantle the government’s system of checks and balances, he said.
The Republican leader of the Ohio Senate says he doesn’t want an abortion amendment to change parts of Issue 1 passed by voters earlier this month to go before voters soon.
On Election Night, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) issued a statement saying he thinks there would be a “revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.” But Huffman said that doesn’t mean he wants to see another abortion amendment on the ballot right away.
“I don’t think there, certainly, should be anything on the ballot, certainly in '24 and we will have to see about that going forward," Huffman said.
Ohio's 2024 primary is in March, and the contests for the Republican nominations for president and U.S. Senate are likely to bring out GOP voters. But Huffman said, "I didn't say anything about putting something on the ballot in March."
Abortion also played a key role in the August special election, in which voters rejected a proposal to require 60% voter approval to pass future constitutional amendments. The abortion and reproductive rights amendment passed with just under 57%.
House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Gov. Mike DeWine, who both strongly opposed Issue 1, have also said an abortion issue shouldn’t be on the ballot next year.
The Ohio Supreme Court, which has been considering a technical question about the state's ban on abortion after six weeks, asked the parties involved in the lawsuit to file written arguments on the impact of a constitutional amendment approved by voters last week.