Abortion opponents in Ohio did everything in their power to prevent voters in the state from codifying access to the procedure.
Soon after an initiative proposing an amendment to the state constitution affirming access began gathering signatures for the November ballot, the Republican legislature slotted in a different initiative for an August vote. That one would have raised the bar for future constitutional amendments, including the abortion one, to 60 percent instead of a bare majority — but Ohio voters rejected it handily.
So then the Republican secretary of state rewrote the language that would appear in front of voters with the intent of prejudicing them against supporting the initiative. A court order mandated a small tweak to the new language, but it was otherwise what voters saw as they considered the issue over the past few weeks.
And they approved it, easily. The initiative in Ohio is on track to win by about a 17-point margin, according to The Washington Post’s live election model, which estimates the final outcome based on partial results.
In doing so, Ohio became the seventh state to vote to protect access to abortion in a statewide initiative since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court last year. Four of those initiatives were on the ballot in states that Joe Biden lost in the 2020 election; in all seven, the abortion-access position outperformed Biden’s support in the state.
There are undoubtedly a number of reasons that the initiative passed in Ohio, despite the state’s general Republican lean at the state level. One, obviously, is that supporters of abortion access were highly motivated to turn out to support Issue 1. This is a group that skews young (as exit polls reflected), voters who are less frequent voters in other elections. In other words, the issue probably helped boost turnout from lower propensity voters, overwhelming the higher-propensity voters who help make Ohio a red state.
Another likely factor is that, despite the change to the ballot language, the issue was uncomplicated. This was not a question of where limits on access should be drawn or conditions under which it should be available. The question was, instead, quite literally yes or no. If you think abortion should be available up until 10 weeks or you think it should be available into the third trimester, you were, in the abstract, a “yes’ supporter on Issue 1.
I was in Columbus last weekend and saw two adjacent shops with competing Issue 1 signs in their windows. The sign on the window of the tattoo parlor supported Issue 1 using one of the campaign’s pre-made signs; at the bottom, it said “stop abortion bans.” Next to it was a hair salon with a large “No on Issue 1” sign. It was accompanied by a flyer in which the (altered) language was parsed and explained, red lines scribbled all over in an effort to parse precisely why the initiative shouldn’t be passed.
If you’re explaining, you’re losing, the old political saying goes. And for Issue 1 on Tuesday, that held true.
Ohio became the latest state to demonstrate support for abortion access, despite how it votes otherwise.