November vote could give Ohio among the strongest abortion protections in the region
Last week, Ohio voters rejected Issue 1. This was a constitutional amendment put forth by abortion opponents in the state legislature to make it harder for Ohio voters to enshrine abortion protections in the Ohio Constitution.
After this vote, the next big policy decision for Ohio around abortion protections will be the “Ohio Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative,” which Ohio voters will decide on in November.
This initiative will establish a right for Ohio residents to make and carry out their own reproductive decisions. This will include the right to abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy.
The bill puts specific limits on how the state can restrict this right, in particular only allowing the state to restrict abortion after the point of fetal viability, which is at about 24 weeks. It also specifically prohibits restriction of abortion in any case where abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.
Currently, Ohio has a six-week abortion ban on the books which has been frozen by the courts. The current practical limit on abortion is up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, the threshold that existed when Roe v Wade was the law of the land. This means that Ohio would likely have more abortion protections under this new change than it did before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.
Currently, states bordering Ohio have a range of different laws regulating abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Kentucky and West Virginia have essentially banned abortion in its entirety in their states. Indiana took a similar step this month when legislation was enacted banning essentially all abortions in the state.
Michigan and Pennsylvania have more protections for abortion rights. Pennsylvania guarantees abortion rights up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and Michigan guarantees up to fetal viability, around the same timeframe.
So as far as weeks of pregnancy go, adopting this constitutional amendment would put Ohio on the forefront of its neighboring states, using the viability threshold Michigan also has.
I’ll be interested to see what happens to many of the other abortion restrictions Ohio has in place if this amendment is put in place. For instance, Ohio requires two separate visits to a clinic at least a day between. It also requires parental consent, which can pose problems for victims of incest and rape. There also are a number of laws put in place designed to make it harder for clinics to operate.
The amendment requires that the state uses the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care. This would likely lead to many of Ohio’s abortion restrictions being struck down.
Overall, this constitutional amendment would give Ohio some of the strongest protections for abortion rights in the region. This could be a lifeline for not only Ohioans, but also people living in Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia would need access to abortion care. In November, we will find out if Ohio is ready for a right to abortion.
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