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Victory in Ohio Represents Seventh Straight Electoral Win for Abortion Rights

Voters in blue states, swing states and even the reddest of states have made clear they want abortion rights protected.

Supporters of Ohio Issue 1 cheer as results come in at a watch party hosted by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights on November 7, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio.

On Tuesday night, the movement for reproductive rights continued its winning streak with a decisive win for Issue 1 in Ohio, which enshrines the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. With more than 95 percent of the votes in, Issue 1 passed with 56.6 percent of the vote. Now, a state in which Republicans have routinely been at the forefront of restricting and banning abortion will be forced by its own constitution to protect this most basic right, and all because the voters of Ohio said so. Every Ohioan now has a constitutional right to abortion care.

Abortion opponents in Ohio employed numerous subterfuge tactics to defeat Issue 1, from attempting to raise the threshold to pass a ballot initiative from 50 percent to 60 percent (which failed), to putting deliberately confusing language on the ballot. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine put forth an astoundingly deceitful ad with his wife, Fran. In it, she claims that Issue 1 would “allow an abortion at any time during a pregnancy, and it would deny parents the right to be involved when their daughter is making the most important decision of her life,” both of which are patently untrue. Ohio law already requires minors to get parental consent to have an abortion, and Issue 1 only allows abortions after fetal viability if the pregnant person’s doctor determines it is medically necessary to protect their life.

In a statement, Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, said, “Ohioans rejected disinformation and fear and voted instead to ensure that every Ohioan has access to the reproductive health care they need here in our state.”

Ohio is a unique state in which to test public support for abortion rights. Long considered a swing state, it has taken a decidedly conservative turn in recent years. Ohio still has a Democrat representing it in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Sherrod Brown, but the state hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 2011. The past two Republican administrations — current Governor DeWine, and former Gov. John Kasich — have been decidedly hostile to abortion rights. As governor, Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban, a bill mandating medically-unnecessary ultrasounds and a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law that successfully forced clinics to close. DeWine picked up where Kasich left off, signing a six-week abortion ban in 2019, putting Ohio at the forefront of draconian abortion bans.

Now, all of those pieces of legislation are unconstitutional in the state of Ohio.

And Ohio isn’t the only place where voters are rising up to directly enshrine abortion rights despite resistance from conservative elected officials. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, voters have continued to express their fervent support for legal abortion at the ballot box. Ohio is the seventh straight election in which abortion rights have won on the ballot. It hasn’t even been close, even in conservative states like Kentucky, Kansas and Montana.

Republicans and abortion rights opponents continue to underestimate the seismic effects of the Dobbs decision on broad swaths of the electorate. Abortion rights are politically popular. Ohioans made that clear on Tuesday night in specifically voting, overwhelmingly, for the fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy.

Protecting the right to abortion care was also a winning issue beyond Ohio’s borders. In neighboring Kentucky, incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, won handily over Daniel Cameron, his Republican opponent, and he did it by running on, not from, abortion rights.

Beshear repeatedly criticized Cameron’s initial support for a state abortion ban that contained no exceptions for rape or incest, successfully painting him as an opponent of reproductive freedom. Four years ago, Beshear squeaked out a victory over anti-abortion fanatic Matt Bevin by a mere 5,000 votes. In 2023, armed with voter outrage over the death of Roe, he won by more than 67,000 votes, 13 times more votes than he previously received.

And in Virginia, the Republican Party, backed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, campaigned on banning abortion at 15 weeks in an effort to take back control of the Virginia state legislature by maintaining the House and taking back the Senate. That backfired magnificently, instead handing Democrats control of both chambers.

Heading into an already fraught 2024 election season, Democrats, fearful of yet another Trump candidacy and potential victory, have a blueprint for victory. Voters in blue states, swing states and even the reddest of the red states, have made clear that they don’t want moderation — they want abortion rights protected and enshrined into law. In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court unleashed a tidal wave of opposition. Suddenly, the issue that Democrats used to avoid at all costs is now a winner. Lip service won’t do — abortion rights must be embraced, defended and enshrined into law. Democrats surely must be taking note that their best hope of defeating Trump requires supporting and protecting the basic right that he helped eradicate.

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