Nov 20, 2023 - News

What's next for Ohio abortion law

Supporters of Issue 1 cheer as results come in at an Election Day watch party in Columbus. Photo: Andrew Spear/Getty Images

Ohio's largest abortion services provider and anti-abortion rights lawmakers are turning their attention to what's next after the recent passage of Issue 1.

Why it matters: While voters approved the constitutional amendment by a 13% margin, the Nov. 7 vote may not be the final word on legalization.

State of play: The amendment effectively negates the Legislature's "Heartbeat Law," which bans the procedure beyond about six weeks, though the law had already been on hold amid a legal challenge.

  • The Ohio Supreme Court is set to review how Issue 1's passage impacts that six-week ban, Cleveland.com reports.

Reality check: While lawmakers cannot simply vote to repeal a constitutional amendment, some members are taking an "any means necessary" approach to prevent Issue 1 from taking effect.

What's happening: Nearly half of Ohio House Republicans signed a Nov. 8 letter pledging to "do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent."

  • Several GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Beth Lear from Delaware County, want to remove judicial jurisdiction over implementing Issue 1 and instead give that power solely to the state legislature.

Yes, but: They face headwinds from House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), who dismissed the plan as "Schoolhouse Rock type stuff," per the Ohio Capital Journal.

The other side: Democratic Reps. Anita Somani and Beth Liston, both of Dublin, will sponsor legislation repealing Ohio's 24-hour waiting period and other abortion-related statutes.

  • Republicans, who control the legislature, are unlikely to take up the bill.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio will operate under current law ā€” which legalizes abortion up to 22 weeks ā€” while it monitors how the court proceedings play out, Troy Smith reports for Axios Cleveland.

  • The group expects to invest in more staffing and facilities, CEO Erica Wilson-Domer says, particularly near the borders of Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia ā€” states where abortion is effectively banned.

What she's saying: "We have an obligation and responsibility now with this right enshrined in Ohio to provide access not just to Ohioans but all of the people who are not able to access that," Wilson-Domer says.

What we're watching: Anti-abortion rights advocates could organize a repeal of Issue 1 at the ballot box.

  • "This isn't the end," Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said on election night. "It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1."
  • No such campaign has yet been announced for 2024 and Huffman later walked back that comment.
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