Voters in the US state of Ohio have approved an amendment that enshrines the right to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care in the state’s constitution. It’s the seventh state where voters have protected abortion access since last year’s landmark US Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent and handed responsibility for abortion law to the states. Voters in Arizona and Missouri are expected to vote on similar protections next year.
The amendment which was referred to on the ballot as ISSUE 1 was approved on Tuesday (November 7) by 57% to 43%. The result means Ohio will not be able to enact a law passed in 2019 that would have restricted abortions once a heartbeat is detected at around six weeks of pregnancy. It is currently on hold because of court challenges which now appear certain to succeed. Abortions in the state are set to continue to be allowed up to 22-weeks gestation.
The amendment included some of the most protective language for abortion access of any statewide ballot initiative since the Supreme Court’s ruling.
News agency Reuters reports the result in the conservative-leaning state that supported Donald Trump by 8 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election, is yet another sign that abortion remains a potent issue ahead of the 2024 campaign for the White House with the vote exactly a year away.
Heather Williams from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee hailed the Ohio vote as a “huge victory.” She said: “Ohio’s resounding support for this constitutional amendment reaffirms Democratic priorities and sends a strong message to the state GOP that reproductive rights are non-negotiable.”
The Associated Press reports that public polling shows about two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal in the earliest stages of pregnancy, a sentiment that has been underscored in both Democratic and deeply Republican states since the historic Supreme Court ruling.
The Ohio vote followed an August special election called by the Republican-controlled State Legislature that was aimed at making future constitutional changes harder to pass by increasing the threshold from a simple majority vote to 60% which would have failed this week’s ballot. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that special election question.
Ohio also voted to legalise the recreational use of marijuana by exactly same margin in a second statewide ballot.