Ohio Votes to Enshrine Abortion Rights: Impact on National Landscape

rights supporters celebrate winning the referendum on the so-called Issue 1, a measure to enshrine a right to abortion in Ohio’s Constitution, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Megan JELINGER / AFP)

In a significant development, the state of Ohio has voted to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution through a referendum known as Issue 1. This “yes” vote victory is a boost for President Joe Biden, especially in the context of the upcoming 2024 White House race. The referendum inserts the right for Ohio residents to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions related to abortion, in the state’s constitution. The celebration among abortion rights supporters was palpable, with a watch party in Columbus witnessing tears, screams, and hugs as the projected results were announced.

Reproductive rights also took center stage in other political arenas, such as the Kentucky governor’s race, where Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, an incumbent, was projected to be re-elected. Beshear had made abortion rights a key issue in his campaign against Republican Daniel Cameron. Similarly, in Virginia, Democrats appeared poised to secure key state General Assembly seats, diminishing Republican hopes of tightening abortion restrictions.

President Biden, facing challenges and criticism on various fronts, celebrated the Ohio result. He framed it as a rejection of attempts by MAGA Republican officials to impose extreme abortion bans, referring to his likely 2024 opponent Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Biden sees the election outcomes as a galvanizing moment for his own re-election campaign, emphasizing the power of voters over polls.

Voters fill out their ballots in a landmark vote on abortion in Ohio. (Photo by Megan JELINGER / AFP)

The organization leading the “no” campaign in Ohio, Protect Women Ohio, expressed disappointment over the loss but asserted the unity of the pro-life movement. They pledged to advocate for women and the unborn during what they described as an unthinkable time. The referendum in Ohio comes 17 months after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the national right to abortion, leading some states to consider complete bans, even in cases of rape or incest. Ohio had previously enacted a law banning all abortions after a heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks of gestation, triggering national outcry.

The political battleground in Ohio attracted attention from activists on both sides of the reproductive rights issue, engaging in a fierce, multimillion-dollar campaign. This referendum and its outcome contribute to the ongoing nationwide conversation about abortion rights, with various states taking different stances on preserving or restricting these rights. In the past year, states like California, Kansas, and Kentucky have seen votes either in favor of preserving abortion rights or against efforts to restrict them.

Women embrace after the results are announced. (Photo by Megan JELINGER / AFP)Ohio Votes to Enshrine Abortion Rights: Impact on National Landscape