Starting today, Ohioans have a constitutional right to an abortion as Issue 1 takes effect
A month after nearly 57% of voters approved Issue 1, the amendment guaranteeing abortion access and reproductive rights has taken effect in Ohio.
“I am so happy and grateful,” said Kellie Copeland with Pro-Choice Ohio.
But there's no celebration for those who opposed Issue 1.
"We obviously weren't successful. But at the end of the day, I think the issue of abortion is still divided in our state," said Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis in an interview for "The State of Ohio" last month. "What we need to do is figure out where we can meet a majority of Ohioans on the issue of life and other social conservative issues, as well as our officeholders. And that's what we've got to work on."
Thursday is also the deadline the Ohio Supreme Court set to allow parties to submit briefs in the case involving the future of Ohio's ban on abortion after six weeks. That law has been on hold by a court for more than a year.
With passage of Issue 1, Copeland said there's no question whether that law is constitutional under the new amendment - it isn't.
“Any judge or elected official who doesn’t recognize that is acting outside the law,” Copeland said.
Gonidakis has also said he thinks the six-week ban is unconstitutional. And Republican Attorney General Dave Yost said in his legal analysis of Issue 1 before the election that the six-week ban wouldn't be constitutional if it were approved: “Some of Ohio’s laws may be defensible, but the Heartbeat Act would not exist if Issue 1 passes."
The amendment’s language guarantees the right to abortion until viability and beyond if a doctor deems it is necessary for a patient’s health or life. It also guarantees the right to continue one's own pregnancy, to contraceptives, to fertility treatments and to miscarriage care.
Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said the significance of this day is important.
“It's an important time for Ohioans to have access to making their own personal, private decisions,” Antonio said.
How the new amendment affects legislation
Democrats in the GOP-dominated legislature have proposed scrapping the six-week ban as well as some other abortion-related laws that they say doesn’t pass constitutional muster anymore. But Republican legislative leaders are not indicating they will consider that.
John Fortney, the communications director for Ohio Senate Republicans, said his boss, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), won’t put forth an effort to change any law as a result of Issue 1.
“Most likely what you know will happen and you can call the speculation, but at some point, somebody will probably try to challenge the legality as part of Issue 1. That won't be coming from the legislature specifically,” Fortney said.
And House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) has also said he thinks it will be up to courts to determine which abortion laws will remain on the books.
Huffman had said Issue 1 would likely bring "a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1", but has also said he doesn't think there should be such an issue on the ballot in 2024. Gov. Mike DeWine has also said he doesn’t support taking any action to reverse the constitutional amendment in the near future because “voters have spoken.” But DeWine, a staunch opponent of abortion, has advocated for the legislature to take action to help women with options to abortion.
One Republican-backed bill would give up to $10 million to 175 pregnancy resource centers in Ohio that can provide expectant mothers with diapers, baby supplies and some health care. Opponents of those centers say they are “fake abortion clinics” that focus on scare tactics of misinformation to persuade women to carry pregnancies to term instead of opting for abortion. Funding for those facilities was doubled in the state budget signed in July, from $6 million in the previous two-year budget to $14 million.