(The Daily Signal) – There’s a new frontier for pro-abortion activists post-Roe v. Wade: constitutional amendments that can circumvent state laws and flout even the most pro-life of governors. And with some of the weakest requirements in the country for passing constitutional amendments, Ohio has become the latest battleground.
In just a week, on Aug. 8, Ohioans will vote on Issue 1 during the state’s special election. Issue 1 would require a threshold of 60% to pass a constitutional amendment in the state, rather than simply requiring a majority of the votes, as has been the state’s practice since 1912.
Ohio’s constitution is easy to abuse because “it’s so easy to change,” former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell told The Daily Signal.
“If you use the U.S. Constitution as the standard by which durability is measured, you see that it is much too easy to change the Ohio constitution with a slim majority,” he said. (Ohio’s constitution has been amended 172 times, while the U.S. Constitution has been amended only 27 times.)
“At a time when referendum and political issues are being advanced by people with deep pockets, we have to look at opportunities that we have to give reason a chance. And that’s all this does,” he added, “gives us an opportunity to make sure that we are making a reasonable change and that it is not something that is being changed on the whims of deep pocketed special interests.”
Issue 1 on its own may sound dull, but there’s a lot more hanging in the balance: If the measure is approved, it would make it much more difficult for abortion proponents to pass pro-abortion legislation like the “Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety” amendment, which Ohioans will vote on in November.
That amendment would ban the state from interfering with “reproductive decisions,” including abortion—effectively enshrining the “right” to abortion into Ohio’s constitution.
Ohio law bans abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected, but a judge blocked the heartbeat law, meaning that abortions are allowed in the state until 22 weeks.
“When the federal government made it clear that protecting Americans’ right to bodily autonomy and equitable health care was not a priority with the lack of movement on the Women’s Health Protection Act, the message became clear how it is incumbent upon the states to fill the void and protect Americans,” Iris E. Harvey, the former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, wrote in January.
“Organizing at the state level around abortion-related ballot measures must become our priority,” she added. “While this may not sound like the most efficient way to ensure the rights of all Americans, we have no choice at this point.”
Critics like Janae Stracke, vice president of field operations for Heritage Action for America, have warned that the amendment is “an attempt by outside left-wing groups to hijack the state constitution and impose their radical political agenda on all Ohioans.” (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation).
Stracke warns that the proposed amendment would set an “alarming precedent” for other states across the nation to follow suit—and not just on abortion. Protect Women Ohio has said that the Ohio amendment touches on parental notification and consent laws, and its language forbidding that any law “directly or indirectly” interfere with “reproductive decisions” could mean that parents would be “left blindfolded if their child chose to pursue sex change surgery.”
“Not only would this extreme and misleading amendment allow taxpayer-funded abortions until the moment of birth, it would also forcibly take away parents’ right to give consent—or even be notified—of their minor children receiving abortions, dangerous cross-sex hormones, and experimental surgeries that remove healthy body parts,” Stracke said.
Supporters of Issue 1, like Protect Women Ohio’s Molly Smith, insist it would put “long overdue, commonsense protections in place.” Smith accused “greedy, out-of-state special interest groups” of trying to take advantage of Ohio’s weak requirements for constitutional amendments.
“That makes Ohio a prime target for radical special interest groups, like the ACLU, to parachute into the state and strip parents of their rights,” she warned.
It is also backed by politicians like Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance.
“We’ve had a lot of great political victories here in Ohio, but that can be taken away from us if out-of-state interests come in and buy our Constitution,” he told The Daily Signal on Tuesday afternoon. “We cannot let that happen, but it’s exactly what they’ll do if we don’t get Issue 1 over the finish line. So let’s vote yes on Issue 1 to protect and preserve the conservative victories we’ve won for the great State of Ohio.”
National left-wing groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have come out swinging against Issue 1 through their Ohio affiliates, pouring millions of dollars into campaigns promoting the abortion amendment and condemning Issue 1.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU of Ohio, and other groups are urging voters to vote “no” on Issue 1—and much of their messaging over the past few weeks has focused on driving voters to the polls.
Why? The leftist groups claim that “out-of-state special interests lobbied to create this August 8th special election, just so they can permanently rig Ohio’s constitution in their favor, ending majority rule as we know it.”
“We know that Ohioans can see through the lies and misdirection from anti-abortion extremists, and we know that we will win on August 8 and on November 7,” Kellie Copeland, board member of the pro-abortion group, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, said in a late July MSNBC interview.
And Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights Executive Committee members Lauren Blauvelt and Dr. Lauren Beene said in a joint, late July statement: “Now that the petition drive is complete, we’re eager to continue the campaign to enshrine those rights in Ohio’s Constitution and ensure that Ohioans will never again be subject to draconian reproductive health care policies imposed by extremists.”
Meanwhile, Protect Women Ohio has launched multiple big ad buys supporting Issue 1 and highlighting that leftist organizations are eager to use Ohio’s weak requirements for constitutional amendments to push not only radical abortion policy but also woke ideology.
“By voting ‘yes’ on Issue 1, you’ll be voting to protect Ohio from these outside interest groups pushing radical political agendas,” says a physician, Dr. Vivina Napier, in the group’s latest ad. “Do your own research. Look into the groups that are opposing Issue 1. I think you’ll come to the same conclusion that I did. I’ll be voting “yes” on Issue 1 on August 8.”
Emily Osment, vice president of communications for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, stressed to The Daily Signal that it’s critical for every citizen in Ohio to vote “yes” on Issue 1 “to protect life, protect parent’s rights and send a strong message to extreme groups like the ACLU.”
“Right now, the Democrats, ACLU and other outside pro-abortion groups know their extreme abortion policies are not popular in Ohio, that’s why they resort to pumping millions of dollars into a ballot measure,” she explained. “The ACLU and Planned Parenthood can’t get their late-term abortions and attack on parental rights through the legislative process so they are hoping they can use money and lies to do it.”
The national pro-life organization believes that these same national groups involved in the battle for Ohio plan to use this blueprint in other states across the country.
In late July, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that the organizers of the abortion amendment had gathered enough signatures to put the amendment on the November ballot.
At the time, Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters called the news an “important victory for Ohio women.”
“If you want abortion rights to have a free and fair election in November, we need your help,” she said in a video message on Twitter, urging supporters to help her rally Ohioans to the polls against Issue 1.