NRL News

Five days and counting until November 7. What do we know about Ohio’s pro-abortion “Issue 1”?

by | Nov 2, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

As you scroll through the media coverage, you’re not looking for balance—at least not if you’re a pro-lifer. Reporters love “horse race” coverage– who’s winning, who’s losing–especially when they can persuade themselves that heading into the homestretch it curtains for the pro-life side.

As one (of a gazillion) examples, take Savannah Kuchar’s USA Today story headlined “Abortion rights inspire these young voters like no other issue. How they’re fighting ahead of 2024.”

I have no quarrel with her right to reach any conclusion she was pre-determined to find. As I said, we’re not looking for balance, just a kind of even-handedness. But no such luck with Ms. Kuchar.

You would think (even if only tried just a little) she could find some pro-life students somewhere. But it’s just one student after another tooting the “Choice and personal freedom” horn.

Even the co-chair of the Fauquier County [Virginia] Young Republican is on board the pro-Issue 1 train:

“I’m a woman. So obviously, I’m never going to vote on something that is going to hinder women’s rights or a woman’s ability to choose,” she said. “Everything has to be case by case. So I’m not going to say, ‘No, you can’t have an abortion.’

This to back up Kuchar’s joyful conclusion: “Ahead of Election Day, young voters also want the rest of the nation to know that the push to protect abortion rights isn’t limited to one section of the political spectrum.”

While Kuchar’s focus was largely on Virginia, the New York Times’s Kate Zernike and Lisa Lerer zeroed in on Ohio and Issue 1. It’s an interesting piece for it at least acknowledges there is a chance that it will be defeated.

Five paragraphs in, after writing that abortion forces “have prevailed in six out of six since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year,” they offer a shrew assessment I had not seen anywhere else:

But the measure in Ohio is their toughest fight yet. It is the first time that voters in a red state are being asked to affirmatively vote “yes” to a constitutional amendment establishing a right to abortion, rather than “no” to preserve the status quo established by courts. Ohio voters have historically tended to reject ballot amendments.

The headline to their story is “Why the Abortion Ballot Question in Ohio Is Confusing Voters.” But that could have written about the other six ballot questions, which explains in part why they lost.

They acknowledge that pro-lifers have “sharpened their message” only to insist they have “stoked fears” about, for example, “the loss of parental rights.” They insist that Issue 1 does not even mention parents.

But that something isn’t mentioned in a law ignores that courts can infer, speculate, and eventually extrapolate to reach a pro-abortion conclusion. Here is Prof. Michael New’s shrewd assessment:

However, a look at other states shows that the concerns of Buckeye State pro-lifers are well founded. Indeed, pro-life parental-involvement laws have been struck down in several other states where state constitutions offer far less protection to legal abortion than what Issue 1 is proposes. State supreme courts in both New Jersey and California have both struck down pro-life parental involvement laws. In each decision, the court argued that such laws violated constitutional rights to privacy. Additionally, in 2016, the Alaska supreme court struck down a pro-life parental-involvement law on the ground that it violated constitutional equal-protection provisions.

One other story that suggest that the “No” vote is growing in Ohio is by Joseph Ax of Reuters. While he doesn’t get around to the pro-life side for a long time in a long story, Ax does offer solid evidence pro-lifers are making gains:

The “no” side has also had far more time to raise money, air commercials and build a field operation than anti-abortion groups did in the few months after last year’s Supreme Court ruling, said Amy Natoce, a Protect Women Ohio spokesperson.

In addition to get-out-the-vote pushes in reliably Republican areas, the anti-abortion coalition has sought to persuade independent and even Democratic voters by labeling the amendment as extreme.

The campaign has said, citing conservative lawyers, that the wording of Issue 1 could allow minors to obtain abortions without parental consent and permit abortions on demand at any time, even in the final weeks of pregnancy.

“Whether you are inherently pro-life or firmly identify as pro-choice, hearing how radical this amendment is gets people fired up,” Natoce said.

Let’s give the final word to Ohio’s pro-life Gov. Mike DeWine. “Even if you have people who are pro-choice and think that abortion should be allowed at some point up until a certain point, I don’t know anybody who thinks that abortion should be permitted all the way up until birth,” DeWine said. “I mean that just strikes most people as going too far.”

Categories: State Legislation