It happened again; abortion won at the ballot box. We see this in election after election. The results are clear: Abortion is a winning issue.
Last week, Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot proposal that could have had a big impact on abortion in the Buckeye State. This special election was called after Republicans had previously banned August elections. The state GOP had declared August elections to be costly and with lower voter turnout.
This was until they decided to introduce a proposal that would have made it more difficult to amend the state Constitution. The proposal, Issue 1, would have raised the threshold for changing the Constitution from a simple majority to 60 percent. And with a proposed amendment to enshrine abortion rights on the ballot for the November election, Issue 1 could have thwarted the popular move to protect abortion rights, as well as the will of the majority.
But Ohioans resoundingly rejected Issue 1. With more than 3 million votes cast, the measure failed by a whopping 57.01 percent to 42.99 percent. Dr. Lauren Beene, executive director of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, soberly reminded us, “This is really maintaining the rights that, thankfully, we’re actually functioning under currently in the state of Ohio since that six-week ban is temporarily suspended.”
Ohio is hardly the first state to see abortion rights win at the ballot box. Last November, voters protected abortion in all five states that had abortion measures on the ticket. Even in more historically conservative states like Kentucky, citizens rejected a measure that would have solidified an abortion ban in the state. And in August 2022, Kansas voters chose to keep abortion legal in their special election. To date, abortion is still legal in Kansas, thanks to voters protecting their state Constitution.
Every state is only one election away from the erosion of abortion rights. Christian nationalist legislators do not care that evidence-based medicine and science show that abortion is safe and legitimate health care. They do not consider the public opinion polls that show that abortion is largely supported by Americans. They also do not acknowledge that abortion restrictions are linked to higher infant and maternal mortality rates.
We are seeing this right now in Texas, where at least 12 brave women have sued the state over the overly vague wording allowing for exceptions for medical emergencies in the state’s abortion ban. A county judge, after hearing harrowing testimony detailing the trauma that women endured, recently blocked portions of the ban but Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately appealed the ruling, putting the full ban back in place.
Going a step further, anti-abortion lawmakers want to prevent people from crossing state lines for abortion care. They also have introduced legislation that would imprison women for having an abortion. Anti-abortion religious leaders have even weighed the death penalty for those who have an abortion.
This is why elections matter — all elections. There is no rest for those of us who are called wicked by religious extremists. Defending human rights requires us to fiercely protect the separation of state and church on local, state and national levels.