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What is Ohio Issue 1 on reproductive rights?

Black and white photo of a Planned Parenthood sign with text that says Ohio Issue 1, What is Issue 1 on reproductive rights?
Lauren Green
Ideastream Public Media
This November, Ohioans will vote on a constitutional amendment on abortion, contraception, fertility care and more.

Voters will have the opportunity to decide on the future of reproductive rights in Ohio this November.

State Issue 1, or the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety amendment, will be on the Nov. 7 general election statewide ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment.

The proposed amendment comes after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. That decision gave states the power to legislate abortion. Several states took immediate action following the ruling, including Ohio, which quickly enforced the 2019 Heartbeat Law that bans abortion after six weeks' gestation.

In September 2022, that ban was put on hold by a Hamilton County Court judge after several groups filed a lawsuit. Abortion is currently legal in the state until 22 weeks gestation. That lawsuit is still ongoing.

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 happens if Issue 1 passes?

Passage of Issue 1 would establish Ohio’s constitutional right to "make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” and would bar the state from interfering 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.

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," the ballot language says.

What happens if Issue 1 fails?

If voters reject Issue 1, the statewide six-week abortion ban could go back into effect depending on the result of the case currently making its way through the courts. The six-week ban includes an exception if the mother's life is in danger, but does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Ohio is a purple state with ruby-red abortion laws. Observers of Ohio’s legislature say this paradox is made possible by gerrymandered districts that heavily favor the Republican Party. As activists on both sides prepare for more legal and political battles, some wonder: What is the value of returning abortion rights to Ohio’s state lawmakers when a voter’s power to choose their elected representatives has been undermined?

The legislature would also be free to enact other legislation regarding the procedure, and some have expressed worries they might also legislate contraception.

Nationwide, concerns over attempts to ban contraceptives rose after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Court should "reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence and Obergefell" in a concurring opinion to the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that an 1879 Connecticut law banning contraception was unconstitutional.

Frank LaRose, Ohio's Secretary of State, previously said state Republicans have never planned to outlaw contraception amid their push to ban abortion.

"No reasonable person is talking about banning the use of contraceptives. Let’s be clear about this and stop the fear-mongering," LaRose said in July.

How does this differ from August’s Issue 1?

In a special election in August, voters struck down Issue 1, which sought to change the share of the vote needed to pass constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%. Because Issue 1 failed in August, Issue 1, the reproductive rights amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio constitution, on November's ballot will need 50% of the vote plus one to pass.

Who supports Issue 1?

Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom is leading the campaign in support of November’s Issue 1, while Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights are also registered supporters. The campaign’s organizers include 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 Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, according to the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom website.

An Associated Press VoteCast poll last year found that 59% of Ohio voters said abortion should generally be legal. A Baldwin Wallace University poll released Wednesday found that 58% of registered voters in Ohio supported Issue 1.

More than 58% of respondents in the Ohio Pulse Poll said they support the amendment known as Issue 1, the reproductive rights amendment. More than 57% said they support Issue 2, which would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana for adults over 21.

Who opposes Issue 1?

Protect Women Ohio, an anti-abortion rights coalition, is leading the campaign in opposition of Issue 1.

Ohio Right to Life, Center for Christian Virtue and Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio have also all voiced opposition to Issue 1.

Protect Women Ohio claimed in a July ad that the amendment is "anti-parent" and would encourage sex change operations for minors without parental consent, though the amendment's official language makes no mention of health care for transgender minors or instances of parental consent.

Abigail Moncrieff, an associate professor at Cleveland State University College of Law, says the amendment, if passed, is extremely unlikely to disrupt doctors' obligation to obtain parents' consent before treatments since minors are legally incapable of consenting on their own behalf. Parents will retain the power to consent or withhold consent, on behalf of their minor children.

"From my perspective, this does not have any impact on parents' rights," Moncrieff said. "There has to be state action for a constitutional right to play at all in a parent's decision to refuse that kind of treatment to the child. It doesn't get touched by the Reproductive Freedom Amendment. The only thing that could possibly be impacted is the state's power to prohibit parents from providing gender-affirming care to their children."

When it comes to gender-affirming care, Moncrieff said there's ambiguity in how the law would apply. That's because the amendment language guarantees an individual's right to make their own reproductive decisions about fertility treatments and some aspects of fertility treatment could encompass gender-affirming care, she said.

"There's a reasonable argument that it does apply to gender-affirming care, even though that's not what it intends to do," Moncrieff said.

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) previously said the fight over abortion won't end if Issue 1 passes in November.

“If it passes in November, there's going to be another abortion amendment go on after that to repeal that," Huffman said back in August.

How soon would changes take effect?

If passed, the amendment would take effect 30 days after the election.

What will Issue 1 look like on the ballot?

The ballot language for Issue 1 will include arguments for and against the proposed amendment.

Arguments for the amendment will say:

Vote YES to keep government out of our family’s personal decisions. Ohioans agree that abortion is a personal, private decision that should be up to women and their families, not the government. Ohioans are Voting YES because:

• YES ensures people can make the decisions that are best for them and their families when it comes to contraception and abortion.
• YES protects patients and families from extreme abortion bans. If this amendment fails, abortion could be banned even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is at risk.
• People from across the state, including Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and more than 4,000 doctors, nurses, and faith leaders back this amendment. Ohioans know that no matter how you feel about abortion personally, government should not have the power to make these personal medical decisions for the people you love.
• YES prevents government from jailing patients who seek abortion or miscarriage care, and doctors who provide that care. This fall, vote YES to keep government out of our family’s personal decisions. Ohioans deserve the freedom to make personal, medical decisions about pregnancy and abortion free from government interference.

Arguments against the amendment will say:

Issue 1 is a dangerous attack on the unborn, women, and parents. It’s an extreme attempt to create abortion on-demand and to eliminate reasonable health and safety standards for pregnant women. It ends parental notification and excludes parents from their child’s medical decisions. At its core, Issue 1 allows for-profit abortion providers, like Planned Parenthood, to self-regulate and perform abortions up to viability and beyond at the sole discretion of the abortionist. Don’t enshrine late-term abortion in Ohio’s Constitution. Don’t erase parental rights. Don’t subject women to dangerous, unregulated medical procedures. Vote NO. When casting your NO vote, remember that Issue 1:
• Establishes abortion-on-demand through all nine months.
• Removes even basic limits on abortion. It allows for-profit abortion providers to make the final call on procedures, standards, and timing.
• Allows dismemberment abortions; painful, late term abortions; and abortions after a child is born alive by overriding current laws.
• Permits abortion because of the child’s sex, race, or disability. Erases parental rights.
• Ends parental notification and prevents parents from being involved in their child’s medical decisions, like an abortion or irreversible sex-change operations.
• Cuts parents out of the most important decisions in their children’s lives, while allowing abortion promoters to pressure those children behind closed doors. Eliminates basic health and safety protections for women.
• Abolishes care and safety standards for treatment of pregnant women, like requiring that abortions must be performed in-person by a licensed doctor who can transfer a woman to a hospital if something goes wrong. A NO vote protects Ohio’s Constitution from a dangerous amendment that creates abortion-on-demand and eliminates parental rights. Issue 1 hurts women and removes parents from their children’s medical decisions. Save human life, protect women, and defend parental rights.

Learn more about Issue 1

What does Ohio Issue 1 mean for abortion?
What does Ohio Issue 1 mean for birth control?
What's the difference between Ohio's August Issue 1 and November's?
Issues 1 and 2 expected to draw higher voter turnout in off-year election

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.