Oct 10, 2023 - News

Abortion rights battle headlines Ohio's November election

Illustration of a caduceus over a divided red and blue background with elements of ballots.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in the November election, which will feature two contentious statewide issues.

Driving the news: The Nov. 7 general election is headlined by a proposed abortion rights constitutional amendment that would guarantee a person's right to an abortion and other reproductive care up until fetal viability, which is usually around 23-24 weeks.

  • Early in-person and absentee voting by mail begins Wednesday.

Why it matters: The amendment would shape abortion policy in Ohio for years to come ā€” enshrining a constitutional right that could not be undone by a conservative, anti-abortion state legislature.

State of play: Currently, abortion is legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Details: The amendment would guarantee that each person "has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion."

The other side: Anti-abortion groups have launched an ad campaign suggesting the amendment promotes "partial-birth" or "late-term" abortions.

Reality check: The language in the amendment states, "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."

Zoom in: Abortion rights advocates have objected to the Ohio Ballot Board's ballot summary of the amendment, saying it contains "politicized, deceptive language," including replacing the word "fetus" with "unborn child," which isn't used in the full text.

By the numbers: A July poll from Suffolk University/USA Today shows 58% of likely Ohio voters are in favor of the amendment.

Flashback: Anti-abortion advocates tried to make it more difficult for the amendment to succeed by raising the passage threshold of constitutional amendments to 60%.

  • But Ohio voters rejected that proposal in the August special election with 57% opposing it, so the abortion rights issue needs only a simple majority to pass.

The intrigue: The August ballot measure was called Issue 1, which is also what the November abortion proposal is named, setting up a confusing scenario with groups that lobbied against Issue 1 in the summer now urging voters to support Issue 1 in November.

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