Passing Issue 1 will prevent extreme abortion restrictions from becoming law

October 23, 2023 4:35 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — OCTOBER 06: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (center right) joins Ohio lawmakers for a photograph during the Ohio March for Life rally against November’s Issue 1 reproductive rights amendment, October 6, 2023, outside the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

When a demonstrated extremist slams a public policy proposal as “extreme,” you can take that with a grain of salt the size of Montana.

The Republican legislators and state officials attacking Issue 1, the reproductive rights/abortion-access amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot in Ohio, have burnished their hard-right credentials in recent years. They haven’t just overreached on abortion, but on a panoply of other culture-war and public-policy questions, including guns, race, public education, fracking in state parks, LGBTQ rights, ballot access, and gerrymandering.

When you see and hear Republican leaders in Ohio labeling Issue 1 as extreme, as if they’re reasonable grownups talking common sense, please remember all the ways that they’ve revealed their own radical and undemocratic approach to governing and policy.

The Abortion Restrictions They Passed

Perhaps the most instructive example of state Republicans’ overreach is the severe abortion restrictions that almost certainly will go into effect if Issue 1 fails.

GOP supermajorities in the Ohio General Assembly muscled through a draconian six-week abortion ban in July 2019 (Senate Bill 23) that for medical practitioners, criminalized most abortions after fetal cardiac activity (not a “heartbeat”) is registered and levied serious civil liability and professional disciplinary sanctions. That can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women (or girls) know they’re pregnant.

That law, which likely will go back into effect unless Issue 1 passes in November, does not include exceptions for rape or incest but does include exceptions for “medical necessity or medical emergency.” However, as the Ohio Capital Journal reported in November 2022, doctors have testified that those exceptions are so vague that many medical practitioners would be rightly afraid to risk the fifth-degree felony charges and other penalties outlined in the law.

One doesn’t have to deal with hypotheticals when assessing S.B. 23. During the 82 days that it went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 and before litigation put the legislation on hold, numerous well-documented problems arose confirming that this law is both inhumane and unworkable… in other words, extreme. 

In one well-publicized case, a week into enforcement of the six-week abortion ban, an Indianapolis doctor reported that she conducted an abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Columbus for whom the new Ohio law barred the procedure. It was not an isolated case. Under the new law, doctors in Ohio also related having to contact lawyers before undertaking medical procedures to save the lives of patients, and then, if it wasn’t too late, living with the fear of criminal charges and civil penalties if they violated any section of the law.

These and other examples of the extreme consequences that occurred under S.B. 23 were recounted in a September 2022 Ohio Capital Journal article based on sworn affidavits from abortion providers.

Expect Ever More Extreme Abortion Laws

Over the past few years, Republican lawmakers have proposed a raft of anti-abortion bills, most of them even more radical than S.B. 23. If Issue 1 fails at the polls, we can expect at least some of them to pass into law. Don’t forget; these are the same hypocrites who have the nerve to attack Issue 1 as extreme. Following are just a few of those bills:

  • House Bill 704, which requires Ohio to “recognize the personhood, and protect the constitutional rights, of all unborn human individuals from the moment of conception.” Aside from practically banning all abortions except to save the pregnant person’s life, supporters of abortion access say that language could discourage or prohibit vitro fertilization and certain types of contraception.
  • House Bill 598/Senate Bill 123, another effective ban on abortion, under which doctors who perform an abortion would face a fourth-degree felony charge, with possible imprisonment and loss of their medical license. An allowed exception for saving the mother’s life, with doctors required to take multiple steps to prove that was the case, likely would lead to situations where life-saving care was delayed or not used at all.
  • House Bill 421, which, among other things would require doctors to inform patients that abortion can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, suicidal ideation, and depression. According to the American Cancer Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, no credible research has established a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Blatant Lies About Issue 1

This is perhaps Issue 1 opponents’ easiest tactic to dismantle – the unsupported and at times outlandish assertions they’re making about the reproductive rights amendment. It’s important to recognize that the amendment’s first and most important provision reads: “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.”

Some of the widely circulated falsehoods include:

  • That Issue 1 allows abortion for any reason through full term. It actually bans abortion after fetal viability, which can be as early as 22 weeks gestational age, “except to protect the pregnant person’s life or health.” This is similar to the rule under Roe v. Wade, the law of the land for many decades in the U.S.
  • That it allows for abortion without parental knowledge or consent. Issue 1 does not change existing laws involving parental consent, and, in fact, strengthens the rights of parents by keeping an intrusive government out of these crucial medical decisions.
  • That Issue 1 would permit so-called “puberty blockers” and gender-affirming care. Issue 1 is specifically concerned with reproductive healthcare, which has nothing to do with those issues.

Abuse of Power and Extremism

The two go hand in hand with GOP leaders in Ohio. Not only did they (unsuccessfully) seek to pre-empt and defeat Issue 1 by persuading Ohio voters to make it much more difficult to pass citizen-initiated amendments, in a special election this past August, but the three-member Republican majority on the Ohio Ballot Board approved a biased summary of Issue 1 that voters will see on the ballot. Written under the supervision of fiercely partisan Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the summary’s wording employs prejudicial language, such as replacing the medical term “fetus” with “unborn child.” Even worse, it fails to mention key components of the constitutional amendment, including protecting personal decisions related to contraception, miscarriage care, fertility treatment, and continuing a pregnancy.

During the Ohio Ballot Board’s Aug. 24 meeting, according to reporting in the Ohio Capital Journal, state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, a Republican board member, referring to Issue 1, declared, “This is a dangerous amendment that I’m going to fight tirelessly against.” Gavarone also repeated the oft-told lie that the amendment constitutes “an assault on parental rights.” All this, despite LaRose’s statements professing neutrality in how the Ballot Board would conduct its business.

Read the Amendment

Don’t believe the hysterical anti-Issue 1 propaganda being circulated in political ads and fliers, letters to the editor and church program inserts, or the constant barrage of misleading and inflammatory social-media posts by Republican leaders like LaRose and hard-right GOP legislators like Gavarone who helped pass the truly extreme S.B. 23. Instead, take the time to read the full text of the reproductive rights amendment and come to your own decision. You’ll likely agree that it’s a straightforward and humane way to protect access to not only abortion but fertility treatment, contraception, miscarriage care, and continuing one’s pregnancy.



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Terry Smith
Terry Smith

Terry Smith in May 2020 left The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio, after editing that award-winning publication for 34 years. His columns and editorials have placed first in the Ohio News Media Association’s annual weekly newspaper awards in recent years. Before returning to Athens and his alma mater, Ohio University, in 1986, Smith reported for newspapers in Ohio, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado and West Virginia. He is currently freelance editing and writing from his home in Athens.