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What does Ohio Issue 1 mean for abortion?

Black and white photo of a Planned Parenthood sign with text that says Ohio Issue 1, What does Issue 1 mean for abortion?
Lauren Green
Ideastream Public Media

State Issue 1, or the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety amendment, has been at the forefront of political debate across Ohio this year. The proposed amendment will determine the scope of reproductive rights in Ohio after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, putting abortion ban decisions in the hands of individual states.

Ohio was among several states that took immediate action after the ruling, enforcing Gov. Mike DeWine's 2019 Heartbeat Law banning abortion after six weeks' gestation. The Heartbeat Law was then blocked when the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas granted a temporary restraining order against the law in September 2022 after several groups filed a lawsuit, restoring Ohio's legal abortion limit to 22 weeks.

Now, the Ohio Supreme Court is considering arguments in the case, which was originally on the constitutionality of the abortion ban. Doctors claimed Ohioans have the right to
abortion under Ohio's Health Care Freedom Amendment.

The Ohio Supreme Court case is also looking at whether the state is allowed to appeal the hold that was placed by the judge in Hamilton County on the state’s abortion ban last October, while its legality is being considered. The state wants to reinstate the ban before there’s a final judgment on the case.

Most recently, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments on whether doctors have the right to argue the case at all, on behalf of their patients, who could say their rights are being infringed.

All that being said, if Issue 1 passes in November, there would no longer be the question of whether the ban is constitutional. It wouldn’t be constitutional. But regardless of how the voters decide, the question of whether doctors can sue on behalf of their patients still needs to be determined.

The Ohio Supreme Court is not delving into the constitutionality of an abortion ban right now, but the decision justices reach on other legal questions in the case could be precedent-setting.

What does Issue 1 mean for abortion?

Passage of Issue 1 would establish Ohio’s constitutional right to "make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” meaning the government can’t interfere in reproductive health matters, according to the ballot language. This includes decisions on abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and continuing pregnancy, the language states.

Abortions could still be prohibited after fetal viability under the proposed amendment, according to the ballot language, which also says the amendment would include exceptions in cases where a doctor determines a pregnant patient’s life or health is in jeopardy.

Fetal viability is typically around 24 weeks of gestational age, according to the National Institutes of Health. After that point, abortion could be permitted "if in the professional opinion of the pregnant patient's treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient's life or health," WVXU reported.

If voters reject Issue 1, reproductive decisions remain with the state. The 2019 Heartbeat Law would take effect again, unless it's invalidated under the Health Care Freedom Amendment and the litigation that's currently pending, said Dr. Abigail Moncrieff, an associate professor at Cleveland State University College of Law.

"And then the legislature remains free to, or empowered to, restrict abortion, to restrict contraception if it wants to, to restrict fertility treatments and care for miscarriages. The things that are listed that would be non-regulable will remain regulable if the amendment fails," Moncrieff explained.

Overall, the proposed amendment, according to the ballot language, would:

• Establish in the Constitution of the State of Ohio an individual right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion;
• Create legal protections for any person or entity that assists a person with receiving reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion;
• Prohibit the State from directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, or prohibiting abortion before an unborn child is determined to be viable, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means;
• Grant a pregnant woman’s treating physician the authority to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether an unborn child is viable;
• Only allow the State to prohibit an abortion after an unborn child is determined by a pregnant woman’s treating physician to be viable and only if the physician does not consider the abortion necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health; and
• Always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health.

Support for Issue 1's passage is led by Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights. The campaign was organized by ACLU of Ohio, Abortion Fund of Ohio, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Ohio Women’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Preterm Cleveland, Pro-Choice Ohio and URGE.

Opposition to Issue 1 is led by Protect Women Ohio, an anti-abortion rights coalition backed by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group. Ohio Right to Life, Center for Christian Virtue and Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio have also all voiced opposition to Issue 1.

Learn more about Issue 1

What is Ohio Issue 1 on reproductive rights?
What does Ohio Issue 1 mean for birth control?
How does November's Ohio Issue 1 differ from August's?

November General Election dates

Registration deadline: Oct. 10
Military & Overseas Absentee Voting: Sept. 22 - Nov. 6
Early in-person voting: Oct. 11 - Nov. 5
Vote-by-mail: Oct. 11 - Nov. 6 (Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 6.)
Election Day: Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.

How to vote

The deadline to vote in the November General Election was Oct. 10. Update your registration information and check your registration status on the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Before you head to the polls, see a sample ballot to prepare your voting plan.

You can find your polling location on this clickable map of Ohio's counties. Clicking your county will take you to your county's Board of Elections website, where you can enter your mailing address to find your polling location's address.

Stephanie Metzger-Lawrence is a digital producer for the engaged journalism team at Ideastream Public Media.