Ohio waves goodbye to ban on abortion

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In a significant development concerning reproductive rights in the US, the people of Ohio have voted to enshrine the right to an abortion in their state constitution. The amendment, known as ‘Issue One’, will take effect in 30 days, allowing abortion up until foetal viability (approximately 24 weeks) to be available to all. This measure also effectively halts a six-week abortion ban that was recently considered by the state’s supreme court.

This outcome was received with jubilation by pro-choice campaigners nationwide, and is yet another decisive electoral win for abortion advocates as Ohio becomes the seventh consecutive state, and the first under Republican control, to amend its laws in favour of abortion. President Joe Biden applauded the ballot as a resolute defeat against an “extreme and dangerous agenda” which sought to “put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalise doctors and nurses.” A substantial 56.7 % majority of Ohioans share the sentiment and voted in favour of deciding their own reproductive medical treatment. Democratic representative Joyce Beatty expressed gratitude for this essential “freedom”, and she condemned those she characterised as “mean-spirited” individuals who seek to exert control over women’s reproductive rights.

Whilst this win highlights a changing opinion towards abortion across the Midwestern state, there remains a long journey ahead for the pro-choice movement on a national level. In the year since Roe vs Wade was overturned, eliminating the federal right to abortion, over 14 states have acted swiftly to ban or heavily restrict access to it in their own constitutions, sparking outrage from some. The elimination of Roe vs Wade prompted more than 200 marches across 46 states in protest of the perceived affront to reproductive freedom.

There remains a long road ahead for the pro-choice movement on a national level

Today, millions of women have to cross state lines in order to gain access to abortion, and often risk prosecution in doing so. On top of the issue at hand, legislative discrepancies and issues with interpretation inevitably lead to confusion and distress, with four states currently remaining in a state of consideration over the issue. Now, abortion advocates look to replicate the success of Issue One in Ohio across the country. Recently, a federal judge in Idaho blocked a law that prohibited adults from aiding minors in obtaining an abortion. This could be an indicator for change to the legislation to come, in a state in which abortion is currently banned after conception.

However, pro-choice movements may be premature. A ‘faction’ of four Ohioan lawmakers is moving to stop this legislation from being interpreted in courts arguing that the legislation is misleading, making it susceptible to misuse. This polarising issue is certainly not going away, despite this victory for pro-choice Americans. Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican Presidential hopeful for the 2024 election year, suggests an alternate Republican approach may have to be taken. Speaking in an interview with CNN, Mr Ramaswamy, who voted against Issue One, emphasises that “greater access to adoption, to childcare” and “sexual responsibility for men” will rouse support for the pro-life cause. Mr Ramaswamy acknowledges that the campaign against Issue One was evidently “outspent in Ohio by many multiples” and highlights that fact that this battle was largely waged on television screens. Democrats this year alone have spent more than $74 mn on advocacy for abortion rights, with adverts emphasising the need for the choice of abortion particularly in cases of rape and incest. 

The issue of women’s reproductive rights remains a divisive one in modern American politics, and the pro-choice victory in Ohio, a traditionally Republican state, and elsewhere may foreshadow shifting dynamics in the upcoming 2024 elections.

Image: Lorie Shault via Flickr

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