This article is a joint effort from two of our contributors who live in Ohio. We’ll be covering a ballot issue relating to abortion from legal, medical, and social angles. Below we have the information in a Q and A format based on the questions we’ve been seeing people concerned about.
What is Issue 1 in Ohio?
Issue 1 is a proposed amendment to add “a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” to the State constitution.
It goes a little further than that, though. It makes it clear that reproductive decisions include, but are not limited to, birth control, contraception, abortion, and IVF treatment. It does not actually define “reproductive decisions.”
It also makes it incredibly difficult for the State to impose any abortion regulations, saying no regulation can be passed “unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.”
While the amendment would allow for the State to regulate abortion after fetal viability, it makes a caveat: “But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.” It does not define “health.”
What would Issue 1 mean for abortion?
Voting YES on Issue 1 to add this amendment to the Ohio state constitution would make abortion a right.
As part of making abortion a right, it gets rid of or could potentially get rid of many abortion regulations already in place for the health and safety of the woman. This is because the health and safety regulations would have to be proven to be the “least restrictive.”
This means regulations on who can do abortions, where abortions can be performed, waiting period requirements, educational material requirements, and how easily abortion pills can be accessed would all be on the chopping block.
For example, it would remove any oversight to prescreening deemed to be “burdensome,” like performing ultrasounds to rule out ectopic pregnancy or testing for blood Rh factor, placing women in danger. Plus, it would provide legal protections against malpractice and negligence leading to injury or death of women provided abortions.
Would voting NO on Issue 1 affect women’s ability to get miscarriage care or ectopic pregnancy care?
No, declining to add this amendment to the state constitution would not affect miscarriage care or ectopic pregnancy care at all in the Ohio. The abortion laws in place are already explicit that medical care for these conditions is legal and does not count as abortion procedures — see Secular Pro-life’s excellent article for an explanation of how miscarriage care is NOT affected by current Ohio laws.
Additionally, as the SPL article points out, look at the relevant OH Revised codes: 2919.11 (definition of abortion), 2919.16 (an exception to abortion regulations and its definition), and 2919.191 (defining the scope of abortion regulations).
Beyond these statutes, Ohio has also had long-standing precedent for protecting the life of the pregnant woman through the December 1866 case Bartholomew L. Moody vs. The State of Ohio, 17 Ohio St. 110. In this case, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled 5-0 that the burden is upon the State to prove that an induced abortion was not necessary to preserve the life of the mother.
Would Issue 1 affect parental rights and/or allow minors to undergo medical procedures without their parents’ permission?
Yes on Issue 1 proponents claim (via the Spotify ads I have heard) that this amendment would not get rid of parental permission laws for minors. Pro-choice proponents of this amendment realize that the possibility of minors being able to get abortions without parental consent or knowledge could be too extreme for moderate pro-choice people; they also know pro-life people have been making Vote No ads based on the fact that this amendment could circumvent parental consent laws.
This amendment states any pre-viability abortion regulations have to be “demonstrated” (i.e., proven) by the State that they are “the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.” Since most “widely accepted” standards of care in regard to abortion do not promote parental consent as being necessary, healthy, or wise for minors, it is very unlikely that parental consent laws will stay in place if this amendment goes into effect.
What would Issue 1 mean for other issues?
Abortion is certainly the focus of Issue 1, even in the summary arguments for and against it on the ballot guide. Even the ballot language itself focuses on abortion.
However, the full text of the proposed amendment includes several examples of what falls under “reproductive decisions”: contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.
But even this is not a comprehensive list, though it may be seen as a framework to work within. However, the term “reproductive decisions” is not defined by the amendment or in any of Ohio’s Revised or Administrative codes. This means other medical procedures or treatments not explicitly listed in the amendment could be defined as a “reproductive decision” to fall under the amendments’ protection.
People have been pointing out that this amendment could therefore apply to decisions about gender transitioning decisions, such as hormone replacement therapy or surgery. Such medical decisions, while not directly related to reproduction per se, can affect reproductive chances and outcomes. I personally do not think it is far-fetched to see gender transitioning services being defined as “reproductive decisions” if this amendment were to pass.
Based on the vague term “every individual” and the broad protections for “a person or entity that assists an individual” with exercising “reproductive decisions,” it is entirely possible that this text could protect sexual relationships between adults and minors of any age. Even worse, this vague text could protect sex traffickers and statutory rapists, as any investigation into a crime could be blocked by abortion providers choosing to not cooperate with law enforcement — something they’d no longer be required to do.
Vote No on Issue 1 in Ohio. Abortion is not a right. Women deserve better.