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Two Truths and a Lie on Ohio's Issue 1
On Tuesday, Ohio voters will decide whether to enshrine this document into the sate constitution:
Passionate proponents on either side of Issue 1 can find plenty of ads and articles to support their cause. As with any hot-button issue, some of the information can contain exaggerated or misleading language.
The Critical Reader has combed through details on Issue 1 and existing Ohio abortion law to determine the facts and point out misinformation that has been spread along the way.
The “heartbeat bill,” which makes abortion illegal once a heartbeat has been detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, was enacted by Ohio legislators in 2019, following the overturning of Roe v Wade.
The bill has been blocked pending a lawsuit. That means that at the moment, abortion is legal in Ohio up to 21 weeks and 6 days.
Some advocates for Issue 1 believe that if it fails, Ohio will automatically reenact the heartbeat bill. But the bill has been blocked by the Ohio Supreme Court; therefore, the law would stay as it is right now, with abortion being legal up to 21 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy.
When it was enacted, the heartbeat bill did not make exceptions for rape or incest.
The heartbeat bill did offer exceptions for health of the mother.
Some stories have circulated that the heartbeat bill would not allow for the termination of ectopic pregnancies, but that language is not in the bill. (That being said, some Ohio lawmakers have tried to introduce legislation that would compel physicians to try to “save” ectopic pregnancies, something that is not medically plausible at this time.)
If passed, Issue 1 would enshrine the right to make decisions on “one’s own reproductive decisions.” Subsequent language refers to certain reproductive decisions but says it is not limited to those. No indication is given of what those other choices might be, which opens a window for the legalization of a multitude of procedures. "There is some ambiguity — a court will have to decide what qualifies as a fertility treatment, what qualifies as contraception, what qualifies as an abortion, where the viability line falls. There are all kinds of things that could be subject to litigation even after this amendment passes," said Abigail Moncrieff, an associate professor at Cleveland State University College of Law.
Issue 1 carefully refers to the “individual” and “pregnant person.” Opponents of Issue 1 are concerned that the broad language, never referring to a woman or an adult, could include decisions not related to contraception or abortion, such as puberty blockers. (It should be noted that Ohio law specifies that people under the age of 18 must receive parental consent or a judicial exemption to have an abortion.)
Supporters of Issue 1 say that the language is very clear; however, even some pro-choice advocates recognize that many gray areas exist. While those would seem to make it easier for people seeking reproductive/abortive care, Issue 1 could in fact lead to many court issues to decide what is and isn’t legal.
Issue 1 states that abortion “may be prohibited” after fetal viability has been determined.
The term “fetal viability” typically means around 23 or 24 weeks. Without stating a specific time frame in the proposed amendment, fetal viability can be open to interpretation. “The state constitution has no guidance for the term,” Christopher Devine, political science professor at University of Dayton, said in a recent in interview. .
While the wording in Issue 1 sounds as though aborting unborn babies who can survive outside of the woman would be illegal, no set idea is given for what might constitute protecting “the pregnant person’s life or health.”
While Issue 1 is specific to Ohio, outside groups have been instrumental in funding on both sides. The Open Society Policy Center, part of liberal-leaning George Soros’ portfolio of lobbying groups, contributed $3.5 million towards Issue 1. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are also said to have been large contributors. Protect Women Ohio, the major group opposing Issue 1, received $1 million from the Catholic organization Knights of Columbus. The Concord Fund, tied to Federalist Society board chairman Leonard Leo, gave $6 million.
Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine strongly opposes Issue 1. In a TV ad with his wife, Fran, DeWine says that Issue 1 “goes too far.”
While DeWine says that Issue 1 “goes too far,” some people believe that Ohio’s heartbeat bill also went too far. DeWine is being somewhat disingenuous by not recognizing that his party’s own bill did not make concessions for situations like rape and incest. To counter this, DeWine has talked about loosening some of the language in the heartbeat bill to add more concessions.