November 9, 2023 // National

Ohio Voters Codify Abortion in State Constitution

OSV News – Ohio voters on Tuesday, November 7, approved Issue 1, a measure that will codify abortion access in the state’s constitution through fetal viability, typically understood to be 24 weeks gestation. The loss marks another electoral defeat for pro-life ballot measures in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Ohio voters passed Issue 1, with nearly 57 percent voting “yes.”

The measure, advanced by the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, will legalize abortion up to the point of fetal viability – the gestational maturity at which a baby may be capable of living outside the uterus – and beyond, if a physician decided an abortion was necessary for the sake of the mother’s life or health. Although Ohio lawmakers enacted a six-week abortion ban that is not being enforced amid a legal challenge, the passage of Issue 1 will likely block its implementation.

A voter fills out her ballot at a polling station in Columbus Nov. 7, 2023, as voters go to the polls in Ohio over Issue 1, a referendum on whether to enshrine expansive legal protections for abortion in the state constitution, which the state’s Catholic bishops have vigorously opposed. (OSV News photo/Megan Jelinger, Reuters)

Supporters of the measure argued it would return the state to the legal standard set before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of 2022. Opponents argued the measure would go further than that through its definition of fetal viability, which states viability would be determined on “a case-by-case basis.”

In a November 7 statement, Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati said, “The people of Ohio missed this important opportunity to demonstrate that the health and safety of women, the fundamental rights of parents, and the lives of preborn children deserve protection.”

“Despite this outcome, we are grateful for all of you who prayed, educated yourselves and others, and voted NO on this horrific amendment,” Archbishop Schnurr said. “And we praise God for the gift of His great love and mercy which He continues to pour out to us in good times and in bad.”

In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Antonio Marchi, Executive Director of Right to Life Michiana, released a statement on November 8, saying, “Though Indiana is leading the way when it comes to protecting women, children, and families from the horror of abortion, we are now surrounded by three states [Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois] that have some of the most radical abortion policies across the nation.” He added: “My heart aches for mothers in our community who will cross the border in the midst of fear to end the lives of the preborn children in their care because they have been sold short by the lie that they have no other choice. People are quick to make decisions they would not normally make when they are in pain. We cannot let this setback carry momentum to capitalize on vulnerable moms and babies in our community. And we cannot let what happened in Ohio yesterday happen here.”

The measure’s passage, Archbishop Schnurr said, “shows that there remains a desperate need for conversion of hearts and minds to a culture of life in our country, one that respects the inherent dignity and sacredness of every human being from conception to natural death.” He added: “This conversion will only come about through the witness of our earnest prayer and compassionate care for the most vulnerable among us. I urge everyone in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to redouble support for the many Catholic ministries that provide material resources and personal accompaniment to women, children and families so that abortion ceases to be a consideration.”

Ohio voters previously rejected in August another ballot initiative that would have raised the threshold for passing constitutional amendments to 60 percent of voters, leaving in place the state’s requirement of 50 percent plus one vote. That measure, which was seen as a proxy for the November election, would have made passing Issue 1 more difficult.

On Wednesday, November 8, Bishop Edward Malesic of Cleveland released a statement following the passage of Issue 1, saying: “Today is a very sad, disheartening day for me, as I am sure it is for so many of you who have championed the great cause of upholding the sanctity of human life, from the moment of conception. Even though our efforts to overcome the enshrinement of abortion into our state constitution failed, we must never give up on the just cause to support a culture that values every life, at every stage.”

Bishop David Bonnar of Youngstown said: “I am saddened by the result of this election, and above all concerned about vulnerable human life. I am also grateful for the valiant effort of the clergy, religious, and faithful working together to make our Catholic voice known on this difficult but important issue. Countless hours were expended on this cause, with coordination between bishops, diocesan offices, and concerned faithful throughout the state and diocese. As a community of faith, we will build upon this collaboration and continue to promote the dignity of every human person. We will be unrelenting in our effort to care for women, children, families, and anyone in need. Our care for life and one another can never be reduced to Election Day. We need to be intentional every day about our love for one another and human life. This is all about forming a ‘culture of life and a civilization of love.’”

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