As Ohioans vote on Issue 1, DeWine hopes to thwart it by promising to relax six-week abortion ban
Early voting continues for the Nov. 7 election, which includes Issue 1, the abortion access and reproductive rights amendment. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine says Issue 1 will stop debate about sensible restrictions on abortion.
But Issue 1 supporters are pushing back.
Columbus-area residents Beth and Kyle Long held hands as they walked into the Franklin County Early Voting Center to cast their ballots for Issue 1. Beth, now 18 weeks pregnant after an in-vitro fertilization process, is at the same point in her pregnancy as she was in January when she got an abortion after learning the fetus she was carrying had a fatal condition.
“The doctors came back and told us ‘this is fatal. Limb Body Wall Complex, all of her organs except her heart, are growing on the outside of her, enmeshed in the placenta. There is nothing we can do to go through and separate that. No fetus has ever survived this condition. And yours will not be the first," Beth said.
Beth said doctors told the couple the fetus they had desperately wanted would not survive due to the rare condition. Further, they said continuing the pregnancy posed a threat to Beth's health and life. Because of laws on abortion, and not having abortion coverage on her state insurance plan, the Longs said they had to travel to Pittsburgh to get an abortion. It was a process they describe as "humiliating."
Their experience led them to do an ad for Issue 1, which also would guarantee Ohioans’ rights to miscarriage care, fertility treatments and birth control.
“It’s important for us to make sure that no one else here in Ohio has to go through what we went through," Kyle said.
The Longs said they had contacted Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, a staunch opponent of abortion, about their situation multiple times. After doing a national news interview, they said they got a note from him saying he was sorry to hear about their experience and thanking them for sharing their story.
The governor and First Lady Fran DeWine are the stars of ad against Issue 1, saying the amendment “goes too far.” But many Ohioans thought a bill DeWine signed in 2019 went too far. It banned abortion when fetal cardiac activity could be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and it doesn’t have exceptions for rape or incest. That ban went into effect just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Doctors took the law to a Hamilton County Court, outlining cases where the ban was harming women who suffered from infections, and life and health threatening situations because of they were unable to obtain abortions. After 82 days, that court put the law on hold, saying it was too vague. It’s before the Ohio Supreme Court now on a technical issue.
DeWine admits his personal view might be out of line with polls showing support for abortion earlier in pregnancy as well as for exceptions for rape, incest and life or health of the woman. DeWine said earlier this year lawmakers need to make unspecified changes to the six week ban to make it more acceptable to the average voter. But the Republican-dominated General Assembly hasn’t done that, and some lawmakers have proposed additional restrictions on abortion.
Ohio lawmakers sometimes reject DeWine’s proposals. In 2019, following a mass shooting in Dayton that killed nine and injured 17 others, DeWine proposed a platform of gun reforms known as his STRONG Ohio plan. It included changes widely supported by Ohioans in polls – increased background checks, better red flag laws and more. Ohio lawmakers rejected it.. And since that time, DeWine has signed bills passed by the legislature that expand gun rights, including a permit-less concealed carry law. And at this point, there hasn’t been a brief filed at the Ohio Supreme Court, the body that could reinstate the six-week ban, to signal DeWine’s intention to change the law.
As the vote on Issue 1 comes closer, DeWine is getting more specific in promising to revisit the six week ban.
“The vast majority of people in Ohio feel that there needs to be an exception for rape and incest. So that certainly will be part of what together we would all come up with if this was defeated." DeWine said in an interview for “The State of Ohio.”
But Lauren Blauvelt with Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights says lawmakers have had time, but now it’s the voters’ turn.
“The governor and other politicians have had a decade to have a conversation about what would be reasonable," Blauvelt said, also on “The State of Ohio.”
Issue 1 opponents have noted that current state law bans abortion after 22 weeks. But supporters have said if Issue 1 fails, the six-week ban with no exceptions would likely be reinstated by the Republican-dominated Ohio Supreme Court.
The 2022 Ohio Abortion Report shows 89% of abortions were conducted before the 13th week of pregnancy. The state statistics show abortion late in pregnancy is rare. Only 0.6% of abortions were performed between 21 and 24 weeks and there were zero after that point.
Rep. Anita Somani (D-Dublin), who’s also an OB/GYN, said after 22 weeks, the standard practice for doctors is to induce birth and issue a birth or death certificate rather than perform a surgical abortion procedure.
Opponents say Issue 1 would eliminate parental rights, though a legal analysis from the attorney general’s office says that’s not in the amendment. But backers say it will protect the rights of parents – like the parents of the 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel out of state to get an abortion last summer, and for patients like Beth Long who find their health and life in danger.
“Doctors are so bullied by the laws. I mean our doctor was terrified of losing her license," Beth said.
Last year, DeWine re-appointed Mike Gonidakis, an attorney and the president of Ohio Right to Life, to the State Medical Board, the panel that has the power to revoke licenses of doctors.