Ohio voters have resoundingly supported a constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s Constitution. Unsurprisingly, however, anti-abortion legislators are already seeking to undermine this vote. But the referendum’s passage shows us what we already knew: Abortion is a popular right and integral to a secular society.
It has been nearly one and a half years since the ultraextreme U.S. Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. Without federal abortion protections, it is up to the states to determine the legality of abortion — and the people have stood up for abortion rights.
Ohio has become the seventh state in which constituents have voted to protect abortion. With a whopping 56.6 percent to 43.4 percent margin, Ohioans voted on Nov. 7 to pass Issue 1, otherwise known as the Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety. It guarantees the right of every individual to make their own reproductive health decisions, including abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage and continuing the pregnancy.
This sweeping win is especially notable because there was strong religious opposition to its passage. For instance, the Catholic Church spent $1.7 million to dissuade voters from voting for abortion rights. Describing Issue 1 as “radical” and “extreme,” the Archdiocese of Cincinnati contributed more than $1 million to anti-abortion political action groups. The Diocese of Columbus and the Diocese of Cleveland also spent a combined $700,000. These totals do not include money that was spent on mailers to 125,000 households in 19 counties.
But Catholic efforts to curb abortion access in Ohio were in vain and do not reflect the views of most Americans. After all, polls show that Americans support abortion access, including Catholics. Those who are religiously unaffiliated are especially supportive of abortion. For instance, 73 percent of religious “Nones” support abortion in all or most cases. (Notably, 98.8 percent of Freedom From Religion Foundation members support abortion.)
Abortion rights as a direct election issue will likely continue into 2024 in at least a dozen states. Maryland and New York already have constitutional amendments on the 2024 ballots. Activists in Florida are in the process of gathering almost 900,000 signatures to add an amendment that would undo existing abortion bans and protect access until 24 weeks of gestation.
Issue 1 is set to go into effect on Dec. 7. Nevertheless, anti-abortion politicians adamantly oppose it — even amid the outcry of support from their own constituents. Four Ohio Republican lawmakers are attempting to prevent the courts from “the authority to repeal existing abortion restrictions.” Underscoring the Christian nationalist intent of this move, state Rep. Beth Lear declared that “no amendment can overturn the God-given rights with which we were born.”
Christian nationalist politicians consistently infringe on reproductive rights and the voice of the people. Protecting the separation of state and church is an ongoing effort that we must consistently defend. We must never take any referendum victory or election for granted.