Ohio GOP politicians have gone to extraordinary lengths to subvert and deceive on Issue 1

October 31, 2023 4:30 am

Supporters of reproductive rights attempt to cover the posters of counter protesters at a rally to support abortion rights less than two weeks after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed a likely reversal of Roe v. Wade, May 14, 2022, at the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

Quietly purging nearly 27,000 Ohioans from the voter rolls late last month, even as some voting had already begun in the Nov. 7 election, was dirty pool. The questionably timed expulsion of inactive voters — ahead of a statewide vote on abortion rights — was ordered by a vocal opponent of that ballot referendum without the usual public notice before or after the cancellation of thousands of registrations. Why?

Voters who didn’t know they’d been cancelled by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and didn’t quickly re-register before Oct. 10 — just 12 days after the purge — cannot vote in the upcoming election. They will not have a voice in deciding, among other issues, whether the right to abortion in Ohio should be constitutionally protected or banned by Republican fiat. 

The (integrity-free) elections chief could have postponed his voter purge until after the November election, the way he did before the August election, but chose not to. Typical. Along with the state’s other partisan overlords of mostly white Republican men, LaRose has demonstrated he will stop at nothing to keep Ohio women from making their own private medical decisions. 

Serial GOP machinations to subvert and deceive on Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment to secure reproductive rights in Ohio, are truly a new low for race-to-the-bottom Ohio Republicans. They have gone to extraordinary lengths and lies to deny half the population in the state the fundamental right to bodily autonomy and self-determination. 

Those who hold all the levers of power in the state, from the legislature to governor, (not to mention the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church) have ordained that women should not have access to safe, legal abortions. They demand governance over women’s bodies, lives and futures. Ohio voters must not overrule them with Issue 1. 

State Republicans cannot abide with the right of every woman to “make and carry out” her own decisions about abortion or reproductive care. They aim to abolish abortion altogether without exceptions for rape or incest. And they fully expect their near total abortion ban, signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine and temporarily suspended by litigation, to be reinstated by the Republican majority on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Republican justices — on the record as opposing a constitutional right to abortion — are reviewing a recent request by Attorney General Dave Yost to lift a lower court’s injunction on the state’s six-week abortion ban and restart the extreme edict that brought so many so much trauma and forced a 10-year-old rape victim to flee to Indiana for an abortion. A decision is pending. 

“All the women of childbearing age in Ohio are at the mercy of four conservative justices on the state supreme court,” said state Sen. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, after oral arguments were held. The outcome of Ohio’s vote on Issue 1 could make the court’s eventual ruling moot or enormously impactful on lives of pregnant Ohioans. If Issue 1 fails, Ohio can all but ban abortions and Republicans can resume control of women with punishing government prohibitions on their reproductive freedom.

If the amendment to protect that freedom wins a majority of votes, the right to abortion with restrictions — basically the law of the land for 50 years before Roe v. Wade was overturned — will be restored in Ohio.

But as this pivotal reckoning in our state nears resolution, the opposition campaign by top Republicans, in partnership with religious and anti-abortion zealots, is throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something will stick. You have Frank LaRose wiping 26,666 voters from the voter rolls in 85 of the 88 counties across the state with hardly any public notification to remedy the purge in time to vote.

You have Mike DeWine promising to revisit his six-week abortion ban to make it more palatable to the average voter when Ohio lawmakers signal no intention to relax any ban and consider going more extreme. You have a flood of baseless doom and gloom ads about minor Ohioans being cajoled into getting abortions or sex-change surgery with parents in the dark, or babies being aborted at birth on a whim, or radical leftists trying to turn Ohio into California.

It began with Republican legislators breaking a law they had just passed to hold an August election to derail the abortion rights amendment by requiring a super-majority of voters to change the constitution. It continued with the state’s election administrator deleting salient information about the proposed amendment in the ballot language voters will see about Issue 1 and inserting prejudicial wording to affect election results. 

In the final stretch of this underhanded and untruthful onslaught of targeted messaging by leading Republicans to scare voters about all the terrible (made-up) things that would happen if Ohio women’s rights were protected, (by the same standard on abortion law upheld for half a century under Roe) you have a con being perpetrated on Ohioans. The same political scoundrels who tried to fool you into giving up your 100-year-old right to direct democracy in August are trying to fool you again.

This time GOP hucksters want to dupe you into giving them the green light to ban access to abortion in Ohio and deny women full autonomy and equality with men. We’ll know very soon if they succeeded.



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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.