Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

In November, Ohio voters will decide whether reproductive rights, including access to abortion, should be embedded in the state constitution. This will appear on the ballot as Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is Issue 1? And didn’t we vote on it in August?

The Issue 1 that will be on the ballot in November is different from the Issue 1 in the special election in August. The only thing they have in common is that they are both ballot initiatives, which are explained on the Ohio Secretary of State’s web site.

The new Issue 1 would add the following to the state constitution:

The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety

A. Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on:

1. contraception;

2. fertility treatment;

3. continuing one’s own pregnancy;

4. miscarriage care; and

5. abortion.

B. The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either:

1. An individual’s voluntary exercise of this right or

2. A person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.

However, abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.

C. As used in this Section:

1. “Fetal viability” means “the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.”

2. “State” includes any governmental entity and any political subdivision.

D. This Section is self-executing.

However, the language above is not what will appear on the paper ballots that voters fill out. For more on that, read this.

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Is abortion currently legal in Ohio?

Abortion is legal in Ohio “when the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is twenty weeks or greater,” according to Ohio Revised Code, or the start of the 22nd week of pregnancy as measured by doctors. After that point, abortion is legal only if the person’s life is in danger or health would be seriously compromised by continuing the pregnancy.

In 2019, Republican legislators passed, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed, a law that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (around six weeks, before many people even know they’re pregnant). That law was successfully challenged in court because it violated federal protections to abortion access stemming from the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade.

In 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. That appeared to clear the way for Ohio’s “heartbeat” law to take effect, but it was challenged again and has been tied up in court since

The state also “imposes a host of other restrictions,” according to WKYC, “including parental consent for minors, a required ultrasound and in-person counseling followed by a 24-hour waiting period. Abortions are also prohibited for the reason of a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis.

“Additionally, Ohio limits the public funding of abortions to cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the patient’s life. Public employees’ abortion-related insurance coverage and coverage through health plans offered in the Affordable Care Act health exchange is also limited to those same scenarios.”

For a deep dive into Ohio abortion law, check out this page on the Franklin County Law Library web site.

Who supports Issue 1?

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights is the coalition that gathered hundreds of thousands of petition signatures to get Issue 1 on the ballot. OURR is endorsed by more than 60 organizations from across the state.

Issue 1 is also backed by the Ohio Democratic Party.

Who opposes Issue 1?

Protect Women Ohio is a coalition led by Ohio Right to Life, Center for Christian Virtue, and Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio. The Catholic Conference of Ohio “is part of the statewide coalition but is also running its own parallel effort,” according to the Associated Press.

The Ohio Republican Party also opposes Issue 1.

When does voting begin?

In-person early voting begins Oct. 11. Applications for mail-in ballots are available now.  

If you aren’t already registered to vote, the deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 10. For more information, visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections web site.

Find more news and resources about Issue 1 click here.

Director of the Editors’ Bureau (he/him)
Frank is an award-winning reporter and former editor at alternative newsweeklies in Cleveland and Philadelphia. He has worked with writers of all experience levels on beat reporting, features, investigative projects and books.