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Landmark Decision: Ohio Voters Embrace Historic Amendment, Establishing Right to Abortion in State Constitution, CBS News Projects 2024-04-20 12:00:59

Ohio Voters Embrace Historic Shift with Approval of Abortion Rights Amendment, CBS News Reports

In a groundbreaking decision, Ohio voters have overwhelmingly supported a pivotal ballot measure, projecting a significant amendment to the state constitution that establishes a fundamental right to abortion, as confirmed by CBS News. This momentous victory for abortion rights comes at a crucial juncture, injecting fresh momentum into endeavors aimed at safeguarding abortion access, particularly following the Supreme Court's recent reversal of Roe v. Wade. The success of Ohio's Issue 1, unfolding in a traditionally conservative state, serves as a potential catalyst for Democrats, reaffirming the enduring relevance of reproductive rights in the political landscape, even 17 months after the Supreme Court's landmark decision. With 93% of the votes tallied, Issue 1 is poised for success, boasting a 55.8% to 44.2% approval margin. This triumph marks another stride for proponents of abortion rights, who secured victories in all six states with abortion-related measures in the previous year's elections. Remarkably, Ohio's initiative stands as the first instance where voters in a Republican-controlled state actively endorsed the constitutional right to abortion. President Biden expressed his satisfaction with the outcome, pledging continued efforts to protect reproductive health care access and urging Congress to enshrine the right to abortion in federal law. The President condemned attempts by certain Republican officials to enforce stringent abortion bans, asserting that such measures jeopardize women's health, necessitate extensive travel for care, and pose threats to medical professionals providing essential healthcare. Abortion-rights advocates echoed these sentiments, celebrating the approval of the ballot initiative as a triumph for reproductive freedom.

"In a resounding affirmation of hope, Ohioans have chosen a future where personal autonomy over one's own body and life takes precedence, free from government interference, asserted Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Despite facing a barrage of misinformation and electoral manipulations from state officials, Ohio voters stood firm in their commitment to shaping a future unmarred by external controls. Following the Supreme Court's seismic overturning of Roe v. Wade, Ohio emerged as a focal point for abortion rights advocates, turning to citizen-driven initiatives to counteract restrictive measures. The success of Issue 1 in Ohio sparks a ripple effect, with similar endeavors taking root in states like Florida and Arizona, poised to place abortion access directly in the hands of voters come 2024. The pivotal question posed to Ohio voters centered on amending the state constitution to enshrine an individual right to reproductive freedom, encompassing decisions on abortion. The CBS News poll preceding Election Day revealed a nationwide sentiment, with 57% supporting the legality of abortion in most cases. Issue 1 aimed at fortifying the Ohio Constitution with protections for abortion access, under the banner of 'The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.' This amendment safeguards individuals and entities aiding in reproductive medical treatment, while expressly preventing Ohio from impeding abortion before viability, generally acknowledged as between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy."

"The proposed amendment in Ohio sets the stage for potential abortion restrictions after fetal viability, with exceptions allowed only to safeguard the life and health of the mother. Fetal viability, a pivotal term within the amendment, is defined as the juncture in pregnancy when the treating physician, in their professional judgment, deems the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures. The authority to determine viability rests with the patient's physician on a case-by-case basis. The measure permits abortions at any stage if required to protect the mother's life or health. Abortion rights advocates initiated this endeavor in response to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade reversal in June 2022, gaining inspiration from successful outcomes in states like California, Michigan, and Vermont, where voters endorsed measures to solidify abortion access in state constitutions. Conversely, red states such as Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana, witnessing unsuccessful attempts to restrict abortion rights, fueled the push for similar ballot measures in Ohio. The path to this amendment's inclusion on the ballot involved rigorous efforts by the group Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, which garnered over 700,000 signatures by July, surpassing the required threshold. However, the journey faced legal challenges, with the ballot language undergoing revisions by the Ohio ballot board amid disputes over potential voter confusion and bias. Despite controversies, the proposed constitutional amendment heads to Ohio voters, navigating a complex landscape shaped by legal intricacies and passionate advocacy."

"The Ohio Supreme Court, in a September ruling, mandated revisions to one element of the proposed constitutional amendment's language, specifically addressing the phrase 'citizens of the state,' while leaving other components intact, including the contentious use of 'unborn child' instead of 'fetus.' With Issue 1 requiring a simple majority—50% plus one vote—to pass, the amendment is slated to take effect 30 days after the election. Earlier this year, Ohio Republicans attempted to heighten the approval threshold for constitutional changes to 60%, aiming for a supermajority, but voters decisively rejected this proposition in a special election held in August, known as Issue 1. Proponents of abortion rights framed a 'yes' vote on Issue 1 as a stance for reproductive freedom and against governmental intrusion into personal family decisions. According to an issue guide from the Ohio secretary of state's office, supporters argue that a positive vote ensures Ohioans retain autonomy over decisions concerning contraception and abortion, shielding them from 'extreme' abortion bans. They cautioned that rejecting the amendment could pave the way for statewide abortion bans, even in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in jeopardy. Advocates contended that Issue 1 enjoyed support from diverse quarters, including medical professionals, faith leaders, and voters spanning the political spectrum. In their view, a 'yes' vote safeguards against government interference in personal medical decisions, preventing the incarceration of patients and doctors involved in abortion or miscarriage care. As the election approached, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights amassed over $28 million in support since early August. On the opposing side, a trio of Republican lawmakers argued that voting against Issue 1 would 'save life, protect women, and defend parents' rights.'"

"Branding the proposed amendment as a 'dangerous attack on the unborn, women, and parents,' Republicans contend that it opens the door to 'abortion-on-demand' and strips parents of their rightful role in their children's medical decisions. By framing the issue as an assault on parental rights, a theme gaining prominence in GOP presidential discourse, these Republicans argue that the amendment facilitates keeping parents uninformed about their child's choices regarding abortion and gender-affirming care. The legislators caution against embedding late-term abortion in Ohio's Constitution, asserting that it endangers women with unregulated medical procedures and eliminates parental rights. However, it's noteworthy that the proposed amendment does not explicitly address parental rights or gender-affirmation surgery. Republicans further allege that the amendment removes restrictions on abortion, enabling termination based on the fetus' sex, race, or disability, including later in pregnancy. Despite these claims, CDC data from 2020 indicates that less than 1% of all abortions occurred at or after 21 weeks gestation. On the opposing front, Protect Women Ohio, a leading group against Issue 1, has amassed $9.9 million in funding since September 8. Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, had previously signed a law in 2019 banning abortions once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy. Although briefly enacted after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade reversal, legal challenges halted its enforcement, maintaining the legality of abortions in Ohio until 22 weeks of pregnancy during continued litigation over the six-week law."

"In the fervor surrounding Ohio's Issue 1, the battleground of ideas has intensified, with Republicans vehemently opposing the proposed amendment as a perilous assault on the unborn, women, and parental rights. Accusations of enabling 'abortion-on-demand' and undermining parental involvement in medical decisions have fueled a charged debate, even though the amendment itself remains silent on the issues of parental rights and gender-affirmation surgery. Republicans contend that the proposal could erode safeguards, allowing abortions based on factors such as sex, race, or disability, despite national data showing such instances to be exceedingly rare. On the flip side, Issue 1's proponents, including Protect Women Ohio, have marshaled substantial financial support, signaling the depth of commitment to reproductive rights. As Ohioans head to the polls, the outcome of this contentious battle will reverberate, not just within the state but as a part of the broader national conversation on abortion rights, parental involvement, and the evolving landscape of reproductive healthcare legislation."

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