The state of Ohio is using an amendment as a trial for future battles over abortion throughout the entire state in 2024.

In the upcoming 2024 elections, access to abortion is likely to be a major topic of discussion. This will be highlighted next week as voters in Ohio vote on whether to protect reproductive rights in their state Constitution.

The amendment is the only abortion question on any state’s ballot this year, a spotlight that has generated intense attention from national groups and made Ohio a testing ground for fresh campaign messaging — some of it misleading. The amendment has drawn more than $60 million in combined spending so far.

The leader of Reproductive Freedom for All, Mini Timmaraju, stated that Ohio is an important testing ground for the upcoming presidential election. Democrats are relying on the issue of abortion to rally supporters in various elections. Similar initiatives to safeguard access may appear on ballots in key states such as Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

In the future, we hope to analyze the effects of our messaging on independents and Republicans in Ohio and convince them of the importance of safeguarding this fundamental freedom. This will allow us to implement effective strategies for the 2024 elections.

Last summer, the focus of the abortion debate moved to individual states after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade ruling, eliminating federal safeguards for abortion that had been in effect for 50 years. In the months following, voters in six states – California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont – have either backed initiatives to protect abortion rights or opposed attempts to limit access.

Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs for the organization SBA Pro-Life America, stated that the results in 2022 provided valuable insights that the anti-abortion movement has utilized in Ohio by building stronger coalitions and improving their messaging.

She stated that those against abortion will use their tactics and knowledge in future situations in other states.

The Republican Secretary of State, Frank LaRose, approved wording for the Ohio amendment that was deemed misleading by its supporters. Meanwhile, the GOP Attorney General, Dave Yost, went against the norm by creating his own “legal analysis” of the amendment. Supporters of the amendment fear that these actions by high-ranking state officials could potentially result in lost votes.

However, similar to the anti-abortion movement, Ohio’s Republican party has not unanimously agreed on this matter.

The Ohio Senate, controlled by the GOP, has utilized their website to disseminate misleading information about the amendment. However, Governor Mike DeWine has been appearing on various TV stations assuring that his party will propose a sensible alternative if the measure is rejected by voters. In a first for his 46-year career in politics, DeWine has stated that he would back exceptions for rape and incest in any upcoming abortion legislation if the measure is unsuccessful.

The governor has formed a partnership with the Ohio Catholic Conference, which is organizing a movement within its churches to oppose the amendment known as Issue 1 on the ballot. Protect Women Ohio, the opposition campaign, has also gained backing from certain leaders of the Black faith community.

The supporters responded with an advertisement showcasing the senior minister from First Congregational Church in Columbus, who stated that abortion is a personal issue and emphasized the importance of keeping the government out of family decision-making.

The proposed Ohio amendment would protect a person’s right to make and enact their own choices regarding reproductive matters. It allows the state to regulate abortions after the fetus is deemed viable by a doctor, as long as the laws include exemptions for the woman’s life and well-being.

The measure has the backing of Democrats, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and a coalition of labor, faith, and community groups. They view it as a means of solidifying abortion rights in a state that has become more Republican and has implemented strict regulations on the procedure.

This refers to a current law that is being contested in court, which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. This law does not allow for any exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Carolyn Ehrlich, senior campaign strategist at the ACLU, stated that this is the most conservative state to date where they are advocating for proactive state constitutional amendments.

Critics, such as members of the Republican party, the Center for Christian Virtue, and Ohio Right to Life, argue that the amendment grants excessive availability for abortions and does so at a stage too far into the pregnancy. They also doubt if any restrictions on abortion passed by state legislators would be deemed constitutional if the amendment is approved by voters.

According to Megan Wold, who previously worked as a deputy Ohio solicitor general for Protect Women Ohio, the issue at hand is not simply about being pro-choice or pro-life. It is a vote on specific language that will greatly affect how abortion is regulated in Ohio going forward.

Protect Women Ohio’s interest in persuading independent and politically moderate voters is about the math, since public support for some form of abortion rights has remained well over the 50% mark in the U.S. for years. AP VoteCast polling last year found that 59% of Ohio voters say abortion should generally be legal.

According to Peter Range, the executive director of Ohio Right to Life, the March for Life event at the Ohio Statehouse last month had a significant turnout and showed strong enthusiasm, which fills him with confidence for success on Tuesday.

He stated that Limitation 1 is excessive in restricting the state, “and I believe that once the majority of Ohioans become aware of this, they will reject it.”

The first campaign, called Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, aims to attract voters from all political parties by emphasizing the importance of bodily autonomy and the right to be free from government interference.

According to Kimberly Inez McGuire, who serves as the executive director of URGE and is also a member of the coalition that backs the amendment, the messaging used in Ohio was successful in appealing to individuals from different political affiliations. This was evident in Kansas, a largely Republican state, which made headlines when it became the first to safeguard the right to abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe.

She stated that there is a great benefit in preserving our independence and freedom, and ensuring that the government does not dictate our choices regarding our own bodies.

McGuire stated that those in favor of abortion rights were also motivated by a special election in August, where the Republican-led state legislature proposed a measure that would have required a 60% supermajority for any future constitutional amendments. This proposal was not successful, causing many voters to lose trust in their elected officials.

Organizers predict a strong voter turnout for the election ending on Tuesday, fueled by the enthusiasm seen during the summer. The Ohio Association of Election Officials reports that local election officials are expecting 40-50% of registered voters to cast their votes, which is higher than the usual off-year November election turnout and an increase from the 39% seen in August.

McGuire stated that Ohio voters are aware of the gravity of the situation, having witnessed the Ohio government’s extreme measures to meddle in people’s lives. The recent August election exposed the tactics of the anti-abortion movement, which is to impede democratic efforts in support of abortion access due to their understanding that the majority opposes abortion bans.


Fernando provided updates from Chicago.


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