What the Ohio Vote on Abortion Means

It appears to be trouble for the GOP strategy of leaving the issue up to the states, for now
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2023 10:50 AM CDT
What the Ohio Vote on Abortion Means
People celebrate the defeat of Issue 1 during an election night party at the Columbus Fire Fighters Local 67 on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.   (Adam Cairns/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Ohio voters delivered a victory for abortion access on Tuesday, even if they didn't explicitly vote on abortion. Instead, they rejected a GOP-backed proposal (called Issue 1) that would have made it harder to amend the state's constitution. However, the vote was widely understood to be an attempt to restrict abortions because a measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state is on the ballot in November. In fact, prior to the vote, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Issue 1 was "100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution," per the Ohio Capital Journal. A look at the implications of the vote:

  • The result is "significant," write David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick in a New York Times assessment. Ohio is "increasingly conservative," and yet it rather easily defeated the proposal 57% to 43%. It's now the fourth straight red state, after Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana, to have voted in favor of abortion access on a referendum since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. "At least for now, ballot initiatives—as opposed to ousting otherwise popular Republican politicians—appear to be one of the few ways for advocates to expand abortion access in conservative states." However, more votes are upcoming, and the piece digs into those.

  • At the Messenger, Khaya Himmelman makes a similar point: "The overwhelming defeat of Issue 1 is just the latest evidence that the long-sought Republican strategy of leaving abortion policy up to the states in a post-Roe world may not produce the desired result, even in purple or red states." That piece also looks at what's ahead in other states.
  • Brent Griffiths at Insider goes further, writing that the GOP strategy about leaving the issue to the states is backfiring as proponents move to guarantee access in state constitutions. "Conservatives were elated that they realized their decadeslong effort to gut Roe," writes Griffiths. "Instead, it has turned into a reoccurring nightmare whenever the issue is on the ballot."
  • Similar sentiments are being voiced on the right. "The Ohio result tonight, coming on the heels of the shellacking in Michigan and the unexpected loss in Kentucky, needs to be a five-alarm fire for the pro-life movement," writes conservative policy analyst Patrick Brown on X, formerly Twitter. Later, he added, "The issue is that the the pro-choice side beats the pro-life side when the issue is heads-up in the ballot box."
  • The group SBA Pro-Life America echoes the above, declaring that "attacks on state constitutions are now the national playbook of the extreme pro-abortion Left," per Breitbart. "That is why everyone must take this threat seriously and recognize progressives will win if their opponents are scared into submission by the pro-abortion Left."
  • So what does Tuesday's vote mean for the November initiative? Passage now seems likely, writes Ed Kilgore at New York. Polls show about 57% of Ohio voters support the idea of guaranteeing abortion access. Issue 1 would have raised the threshold to 60%.
(Read more abortion rights stories.)

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