Ohio constitutional amendment loses in blow to abortion foes

Image credit: Ohio Secretary of State’s Office.

Ohio voters on Tuesday soundly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the threshold future amendments must meet to win passage, a blow to abortion opponents who hoped to raise the bar for another constitutional amendment headed to the ballot in November.

With more than 95% of votes counted, the Associated Press projected the lone question on Tuesday’s ballot — Issue 1 — would fail. It was trailing 43% to 57%.

Legislative Republicans put Issue 1 on the August ballot earlier this year, just weeks after eliminating other August elections. The measure would have required future proposed amendments to receive 60% of the vote to be added to the constitution, rather than a simple majority.

Supporters of future amendments would have been required to collect signatures equivalent to 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in all 88 of Ohio’s counties, a herculean task that would have added tremendous burdens to initiative supporters.

Republicans were clear that their intent was to block another amendment, this one guaranteeing a right to reproductive freedom, from passing in November.

“This is 100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution. The left wants to jam it in there this coming November,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) told a local Republican group in June.
August elections are normally sleepy affairs, held in the midst of vacation season. But voters mobilized in unprecedented numbers to reject Issue 1, in what may be a promising sign for abortion rights supporters backing the November amendment.

By the end of early voting, nearly 700,000 voters had cast ballots early or by mail. That early turnout rate of nearly 9% is higher than the entire number of voters who turned out in last year’s August primaries — either early or on Election Day — when legislative primaries were held.

The results are a boon for abortion rights supporters, who see another chance to codify abortion rights even in a state that has trended Republican in recent years.

A poll conducted by Suffolk University for USA Today in early July found support for the abortion rights amendment at 58%, with just 32% opposed. The amendment won over nearly 2 in 3 women, a majority of men, more than two-thirds of independent voters, and even 32% of Republican voters.

Abortion remains legal in Ohio through 22 weeks, after a state judge temporarily blocked a 2019 rule banning doctors from performing abortions after cardiac activity is detected, at about six weeks.

Ohio is the latest battleground in wars over abortion rights that erupted again after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the U.S. Constitution did not guarantee the right to an abortion. That case, striking down the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, led to ballot measures supporting and challenging abortion rights across the country.

So far, the abortion rights side has the upper hand: Voters passed ballot initiatives supporting abortion rights in states such as California, Vermont and Michigan in 2022, while measures aimed at increasing restrictions on abortion rights failed in deep red Kansas and Kentucky.

This post has been updated with the latest vote counts.