Ohio voters on Tuesday added reproductive rights to the state constitution, preventing lawmakers from banning access to abortion, contraception, miscarriage care, fertility treatment and other reproductive care.
Voters supported Issue 1 by a margin of 59% to 41%, with 40% of the votes counted, according to multiple news outlets, including NBC News, which projected its passage. The remaining uncounted votes might tighten the margin but would not change the outcome of the election.
Issue 1 received strong support from Cuyahoga County and other urban counties in Ohio. Cuyahoga County voters back the issue by 76%. The issue was leading Franklin County with 77% of the vote.
The state can still limit access to abortion after “fetal viability,” or when a fetus can survive outside the uterus, which is around 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy. But a patient could still opt for an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability, if a physician determines it is necessary to protect the person’s life and health. The amendment will take effect in 30 days.
“The reproductive rights amendment is a shield that will safeguard the reproductive rights of Ohioans, ensuring that their choices are respected, their voices are heard, and their autonomy is protected,” said Dr. Marcela Azevedo, physician and co-founder of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, in an email statement released by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights.
Protect Women Ohio, the coalition of Issue 1 opponents, said in a statement that it “stand[s] ready during this unthinkable time to advocate for women and the unborn, just as we have always done. We persevered for 50 years to overturn Roe v Wade. Ours is a movement that has always endured, and always will. Tomorrow, the work starts again as we fight to be a voice for the voiceless and advocate for women and parents.”
Last summer, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had prevented states from banning abortion, access to abortion temporarily changed in Ohio.
The Supreme Court’s ruling made way for Ohio’s 2019 “heartbeat law” to take effect. The law, which had been stalled by a legal challenge, banned doctors from performing abortion procedures once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is around six weeks into pregnancy. The law made no exceptions for rape or incenst. It was in place for 11 weeks before Planned Parenthood, Preterm and other Ohio groups won a court ruling to temporarily block it again. It remains tied up in a Hamilton County court.
Abortion rights advocates and opponents are now in “uncharted territory,” said Jessie Hill, professor at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law.
“This will be the first time affirmative protections for abortion are being enshrined in the state constitution, in a state where the government is hostile to abortion,” Hill said. “So there are a couple of possibilities. The state’s attorneys could agree that the six-week ban is now unconstitutional, and agree to end the lawsuit. If that doesn’t happen, the lawsuit will continue, but the amendment provides a powerful new legal argument that can be made, and it’s unlikely that the six-week ban will survive.
“Most likely, one way or another, the six-week ban will be found unconstitutional and unenforceable,” she said.
The success of Issue 1 suggests that abortion remains a potent political issue nationally. Ohio is the fourth state to pass a constitutional amendment ensuring reproductive rights since 2022. That year, Kentucky and Kansas voters rejected amendments that would have restricted abortion. In 2024, abortion-related ballot measures are expected in Arizona, Missouri and Florida.
This story was updated with statements from Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and Protect Women Ohio.