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Abortion access is protected in Ohio. Now what?


Abortion access is protected in Ohio. Now what?

Dec 11, 2023 | 4:50 am ET
By Morgan Trau
Abortion access is protected in Ohio. Now what?
COLUMBUS, Ohio — OCTOBER 08: People gather for the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom Bans OFF Columbus rally for Issue 1, October 8, 2023, outside the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

On Thursday, Ohioans got the constitutional right to abortion and contraception. The amendment is now in effect after voters passed Issue 1 in the November election.

All residents now have the right to make their own decisions about abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and continuing pregnancy.

It prevents the state from interfering or penalizing someone for exercising this right.

“They can count on the fact that they can make those personal private decisions for themselves about any of their reproductive health care,” Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said.

Antonio said this is a step forward for the state. However, she has acknowledged there has been some controversy surrounding what happens next.

Issue 1 passed 57-43% on election night. Despite this significant victory, Statehouse Republicans have been mulling over ways to combat it.

Dozens of Statehouse Republicans have spoken out or proposed legislation to prevent issue 1 from going into effect.

That won’t be happening, according to Senate GOP spokesperson John Fortney.

“President Huffman has been very clear that there won’t be any effort to try to overturn any part of Issue 1,” Fortney said.

But that’s not what Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said a week after the election.

“People mentioned the 15 weeks and the exceptions and things like that,” Huffman said on Nov. 15.

“Would 15 weeks be going against the will of the people?” Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau asked.

“I don’t know… I think it’s a discussion that is in the future,” the president responded.

While the Senate seems to be changing its tune, this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the fight against abortion rights.

“At some point, somebody will probably try to challenge the legality of part of Issue 1.” Fortney said. “That won’t be coming from the Legislature.”

Legal challenges will continue on each side. Even though the constitutional amendment is now in effect, all of the abortion restrictions up until now will need to be settled in court. This includes the six-week ban currently in front of the Ohio Supreme Court.

The court will rule in favor of abortion since the justices must follow the Constitution, Antonio said.

“As long as we have that law standing, then that means that lives will be saved and that the women of this state will be able to autonomously claim full citizenship,” she said.

Timeline of GOP Statehouse leaders and lawmakers’ perspectives on abortion following election results

Due to public officials’ affinity for publishing all their thoughts on social media, WEWS/OCJ is only including the most pertinent responses and major statements or changes in perspectives. For example, DeWine has addressed abortion numerous times since he gave his first response to the election, but his opinion has remained the same, so his additional responses are not included in this timeline.

Nov. 7:

Senate President Matt Huffman

“Life is worth fighting for. As a grandparent of eight, the life of a baby is always worth the fight. The national abortion industry funded by wealthy out-of-state special interests spent millions to pass this radical language that goes far past abortion on demand. This isn’t the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.”

House Speaker Jason Stephens

“As a 100% pro-life conservative, I remain steadfastly committed to protecting life, and that commitment is unwavering. The legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.”

Nov. 8:

Twenty-seven of 67 Republican members of the House condemned the passage of Issue 1 and wrote a letter from the General Assembly.

“We will do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent.”

Nov. 9:

Gov. Mike DeWine

The governor answered questions from reporters for about 25 minutes, most of them related to abortion.

“We respect the vote but like everything else in this country, whether it’s legislation passed by the General Assembly, a constitutional amendment passed by the people, we always continue to evaluate how things are working… People will decide if they are comfortable with what we voted on, or they will decide that it maybe needs to be changed or tweaked.”

This has remained DeWine’s perspective.

Nov. 10:

Ohio Value Voters, a far-right organization, sent out a news release about how four fringe House reps plan to introduce legislation to address Issue 1.

“To prevent mischief by pro-abortion courts with Issue 1, Ohio legislators will seek to remove jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative. The Ohio legislature alone will consider what, if any, modifications to make to existing laws based on public hearings and input from legal experts on both sides.”

Nov. 13:

An initial draft of said legislation came out.

“The Ohio General Assembly shall have the exclusive authority over implementing Ohio Issue 1. All jurisdiction is hereby withdrawn from and denied to the Courts of Common Pleas and all other courts of the State of Ohio.”

The draft bill would also “immediately dismiss” all lawsuits or claims in court and would “vacate” all decisions made by a court. Being found guilty of this could lead to a misdemeanor, making it an impeachable offense.

Nov. 15:

House Speaker Jason Stephens

Upon being asked about the alt-right Republican representatives’ bill to strip judges of their duties, Stephens immediately shot it down.

This is schoolhouse rock-type stuff. We need to make sure that we have the three branches of government, and the Constitution is what we abide by.”

Stephens said the bill is dead on arrival. He also backtracked from his initial election night statement. He said the bills wouldn’t be about limiting abortion.

“I think we need to continue our focus on — what are we doing for babies.”

Stephens said that the court would decide on abortion laws — so he isn’t in support of taking away judicial jurisdiction, putting a repeal on the ballot right now or making more restrictive regulations.

This has remained Stephens’ perspective.

Senate President Matt Huffman

Huffman denied interest in a ballot proposal for 2024 but floated some limits on abortion.

“People mentioned the 15 weeks and the exceptions and things like that… I think it’s a discussion that is in the future.”

He would not consider anti-abortion proposals in the near future. That being said, the GOP will still fight against repealing some abortion restrictions in the court.

“It’s a lot clearer that some bills are unconstitutional than other bills, for example, the heartbeat bill is unconstitutional. Requirements regarding mobile surgical centers may not be because mobile surgical centers do other things besides abortion.”

Dec. 6:

Senate President Matt Huffman’s spokesperson John Fortney

“President Huffman has been very clear that there won’t be any effort to try to overturn any part of Issue 1. Most likely what you know will happen, and you can call the speculation, but at some point, somebody will probably try to challenge the legality of part of Issue 1. That won’t be coming from the Legislature.”


This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.