Friday, December 8, 2023
One month after Ohioans voted to protect abortion access, the constitutional amendment goes into effect Thursday — and while Republican leaders have mostly backed off plans to undermine the amendment in the near term, proposed legislation and pending litigation could still determine the scope of access.
In the November elections, about 57 percent of Ohioans voted to approve Issue 1, which enshrined the right to abortion until the point of fetal viability, as well as access to contraception, miscarriage care and fertility treatment in Ohio’s Constitution. In Ohio, as of Thursday, abortion is legal up to 22 weeks, which has been the case since the state’s six-week ban was put on hold by the courts in September 2022.***
The GOP push to block Issue 1 started when Republicans put a separate measure onto August ballots that would have raised the threshold to pass citizen-offered constitutional amendments, including Issue 1; Ohioans soundly rejected that effort. Within hours of the November vote, Republican Senate President Matt Huffman told reporters it was the “beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace” it, perhaps with another amendment that would implement a 15-week abortion ban. Then, far-right state Rep. Jennifer Gross, who represents an exurban district outside Cincinnati, announced an effort to strip the judiciary of its jurisdiction over the abortion amendment as an end-run around courts inclined to uphold the state constitution.
Other Republicans in the state have rejected proposals that would ignore the will of Ohio’s voters — but some still expressed their openness to other ways to restrict abortion. Gov. Mike DeWine, for example, said that once Issue 1 took effect, voter sentiment may change and open the door to a different amendment or new abortion laws.***
Ohio still has many abortion laws on the books that weren’t automatically nullified by Issue 1. Some, like the six-week abortion ban that was already put on hold by courts before the amendment passed, are currently being litigated — the Ohio Supreme Court has asked both sides of the case to submit briefs Thursday on Issue 1’s impact on the so-called heartbeat ban. A 20-week ban passed in 2016 — interpreted as allowing abortion up to 21 weeks and 6 days — is still in place, as is a 2019 prohibition on dilation and extraction, an abortion method most commonly used in the second trimester of pregnancy. Another law prohibits doctors from performing abortions requested due to a Down syndrome diagnosis for the fetus. A 2013 law that led to multiple clinic closures requires all abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with private hospitals.