Fact check: No mention of transgender, parental rights in abortion amendment

By: - April 12, 2023 5:00 am

Abortion rights advocates. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images).

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.


Ohio’s abortion amendment says nothing about transgender or parental rights, contrary to the anti-abortion ad’s unfounded claims.

Ohioans will likely vote on whether abortion should be legal this November. Activists are now gathering signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Anti-abortion coalition Protect Women Ohio (PWO) is fighting the amendment, spending millions to buy air time and digital ads focusing on parental consent — not just for abortion — but also for transgender gender-affirming care.


The abortion amendment will allow for, and even “push” for, “sex changes,” for minors without parental consent, the ad erroneously claims.

“Under their proposed amendment to the Ohio constitution, the state shall not interfere with individuals getting abortions or sex changes, meaning you could be cut out of the biggest decision of her life,” the ad narrator says as sad-looking Caucasian people hug, cry and look into mirrors.

Young girls are “vulnerable” and also “online,” which makes parents fear “the worst,” the ad continues.

“Pushed to change her sex or to get an abortion — you have some right to help her through this, but activists want to take all that away,” the ad baselessly asserts.


Erin Upchurch works with LGBTQ+ kids and their families at Kaleidoscope Youth Center. She explained that nothing in the amendment would change the standards of care for transgender minors.

“I was shocked at the level of opportunism that’s being utilized to just throw something in there, and it’s not the truth,” Upchurch said. “It just literally isn’t true.”

The direct language of the bill states, “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.”

But the anti-abortion ads say differently.

In an interview with News 5 Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau, Ohio Right to Life’s Mike Gonidakis said parental consent will be taken away if the amendment passes. His organization is part of PWO.

When asked where the amendment explicitly states anything about transgender care, Gonidakis asked to take a break from the interview to chat without being recorded. Trau denied the break.

“The actual wording is of the language, less than 250 words, it says the state shall not interfere with any reproductive rights,” Gonidakis said. “And it also lists abortion, so it’s not just abortion.”

Trau asked what that has to do with transgender care.

“I think if an individual wants to go through the actual procedure to change their gender, that would that would fall under the umbrella of reproductive rights,” Gonidakis said.

The language is vague enough that gender-affirming care could be considered, he said.

Gender-affirming care, especially for minors, has nothing to do with reproductive rights, said Upchurch, who is also a clinician.

“It is not deemed as such medically or in the standards of care,” she said.

Nonpartisan constitutional law expert Jonathan Entin agreed with Upchurch.

“The opponents are saying, ‘Well, but there’s this language that says “including but not limited to,”‘” Entin said. “But that’s bogus.”

Nothing in the amendment speaks to transgender care, the expert added, saying this is a wide stretch, at best.

“The claim that this is some kind of mechanism for sneaking transgender rights into the Ohio Constitution is just wrong,” Entin said. “It’s dishonest.”

Some kinds of gender-affirming care, like surgery on genitalia, might in some way have some bearing on one’s ability to reproduce, Entin said. But so do plenty of other things, he added.

“If you drink too much alcohol, if you ingest certain drugs, if you drive too fast — all of those things could have shorter or longer term implications for your ability to reproduce,” the legal expert said. “That doesn’t mean that speed limits and drug laws and alcohol regulations are somehow going to be affected by this amendment if it’s adopted.”

“The anti-abortion opposition is desperate and intentionally distorting what is clearly written, in order to completely misrepresent the intent and impact of our amendment,” said Celina Coming, spokesperson for Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, in a statement to News 5. “Ohioans know the truth and won’t be fooled by the outright lies of the advertisements.”

If people think the PWO ad is wrong, they should file a complaint, Gonidakis said.

“We are focusing our efforts and spending our time engaging with the grassroots movement across the state to collect signatures to get this amendment on the ballot and win in November. We take our mission incredibly seriously and don’t have time to engage in frivolous disagreements with the opposition who is working day and night to deceive Ohio voters,” Coming added.

Conclusion: the claim is false.

From the News 5 analysis with multiple legal experts, medical professionals and the amendment writers themselves, the claim that this amendment will allow for youth gender-affirming care without parental consent is false.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.



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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.