Columbus area residents Beth and Kyle Long hold hands as they head to an early voting center in Franklin County to cast their ballot for a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion and other reproductive rights in the state constitution .
Beth, now 18 weeks pregnant after in vitro fertilization, is at the same point in her pregnancy as she was in January when she had an abortion after discovering her fetus was terminally ill.
“The doctors came back and told us, ‘All her organs except her heart, trapped in the umbilical cord, are growing outside her,'” he told NPR. ,[They said] There is nothing that we can go through and separate it. No fetus has ever survived this condition, and yours won’t be the first.
Longs was featured in the issue 1 ad, one of several that have dominated the airwaves in a contest that many see as an important precursor to the 2024 elections.
“I think it’s important for us to know that no one else in Ohio has to go through what we went through,” Kyle Long said before the vote.
If voters approve the measure, which is similar to one passed in Michigan last year, Ohio would become the seventh state to pass abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
If the amendment is passed, it could prevent the return of a law that bans abortion at the point when fetal heart activity can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
A county court blocked that law a year ago after doctors filed a lawsuit claiming that although it contained an exception for the mother’s life, some women were being kept in conditions that could lead to their Life was in danger.
The state appealed that decision to the Republican-dominated Ohio Supreme Court, which includes three justices who have publicly opposed abortion rights.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, supporters and opponents of the amendment have been knocking on doors and holding rallies at the Ohio Statehouse.
Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue, says churches are working to defeat the amendment.
“For us to win, the church, the body of Christ, and pro-life activists are going to have to rise up and shine a light on how radical this abortion amendment is,” Baer says.
Baer echoes the message of many opponents of the amendment, who say it would eliminate state laws that require parental consent or a court order before a minor under 18 can get an abortion. Is.
Baer says that the “mother’s health exception” that allows abortion before the point of viability would allow abortion up to birth. Doctors and lawyers alike have refuted that argument.
While most of the opposition’s support is coming from Catholic and evangelical churches and organizations, not all churches are united.
“For us, this is a justice issue and we follow the God who calls us to take care of the health and well-being of all people,” says Caitlin Hansen, who leads an outreach program with the United Methodist Church in Columbus. Says.”
Before 2016, Ohio was considered a bellwether, swing state. But after voting twice for former President Donald Trump and consistently electing Republicans to control the legislature, all statewide offices and the Ohio Supreme Court, the Buckeye State is considered strictly in the red column these days.
Nevertheless, various polls consistently show that 55 to 58% of Ohioans support at least some abortion rights.
Republican Governor Mike DeWine is a staunch opponent of the amendment.
DeWine and his wife, Fran, appeared in a campaign ad saying the measure “is not right for Ohio and goes too far.”
However, DeWine acknowledged that many Ohioans disagree with the six-week abortion ban he signed in 2019, especially after last summer when it was in effect for 82 days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe.
It was during this time that a ten-year-old rape victim went to Indiana for an abortion because she could not get the procedure in Ohio, as the ban has no exceptions for rape and incest.
Although DeWine did not suggest adding back those exceptions, he promised voters during the election that if they rejected the amendment, he and other state leaders would bring back exceptions for rape and incest.
“The majority of people in Ohio feel that there needs to be an exception for rape and incest, so if this thing goes down it will certainly be an exception for all of us,” DeWine says.
But it’s a tough sell for supporters of the amendment like Lauren Blauvelt with Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights.
“It’s taken a decade for governors and other politicians to have a conversation about what would be appropriate,” says Blauvelt.
In addition to the governor talking about a possible adjustment to influence voters on the “no” side, Republicans in the Statehouse have taken other actions to try to defeat the amendment. Knowing that abortion would be on the ballot in the fall, Republican lawmakers placed a measure on a special August ballot to change the Constitution so that constitutional amendments would require a 60% threshold for passage rather than a simple majority. it failed.
Later, the Ohio Ballot Board, controlled by Republicans who oppose abortion rights, approved the controversial summary language that voters will see on this current ballot.
The language, which differs from the original language in the amendment, removed the portion of the amendment that addresses birth control and changed the word ‘fetus’ to ‘unborn child.’
The Ohio Supreme Court allowed most of the controversial ballot language to stand.
The head of the ballot board, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, is one of the Republicans running in the primary to oppose Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown next year.
Recently, LaRose removed 27,000 voters from the rolls during the early voting period. LaRose’s office said it removed the registrations for them