Ohio GOP lawmakers vow to target state judiciary after passage of Issue 1 abortion measure

Election Day 2023 recap: Democrats score big victories in several states

Washington — Republicans in the Ohio state legislature are threatening to strip state courts of their authority to review cases related to Issue 1, the ballot measure approved by voters on Tuesday that established a right to abortion in the state constitution.

A group of four state GOP lawmakers announced their plans in a press release Thursday, which also teased forthcoming legislative action in response to voters' approval of the reproductive rights initiative.

"Issue 1 doesn't repeal a single Ohio law, in fact, it doesn't even mention one," state Rep. Bill Dean said in a statement. "The amendment's language is dangerously vague and unconstrained, and can be weaponized to attack parental rights or defend rapists, pedophiles, and human traffickers."

The Ohio Republicans said state lawmakers "will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative. The Ohio legislature alone will consider what, if any, modifications to make to existing laws based on public hearings and input from legal experts on both sides."

Republicans hold wide majorities in both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly. The state's governor is a Republican, and the seven-seat Ohio Supreme Court has a 4-3 Republican majority.

Ohio state Rep. Jennifer Gross also claimed that the campaign in favor of Issue 1 was funded in part by foreign donations, saying, "this is foreign election interference, and it will not stand."

The GOP lawmakers did not provide details on the legislation they plan to introduce.

Gabriel Mann, spokesperson for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, a coalition of abortion rights groups that backed Issue 1, called the proposals pushed by Republicans "misguided" and a "misstep."

"Issue 1 was passed thanks to a huge wave of Ohio voters, including many thousands of Republicans, who don't want to see government intrusion into people's lives," Mann said in a statement. "At face value, this was about abortion, but it was definitely also about significant abuse of office by many elected officials in Ohio who have been exhibiting some very bad behavior."

Issue 1

Abortion-rights supporters celebrate the adoption of Issue 1, a measure to enshrine a right to abortion in Ohio's Constitution, in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2023. MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Ohio voters on Tuesday passed Issue 1 by a margin of 56.6% to 43.4%, marking the first time a Republican-led state has affirmatively guaranteed the right to abortion in its state constitution. The approval of the measure extended the winning streak by abortion-rights proponents after they were victorious in all six states where abortion-related measures were directly on the ballot last year.

The constitutional amendment, titled "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety," guarantees that every individual has the right to make their own decisions on abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage and continuing their pregnancy. It also allows the state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability, considered between 22 and 24 weeks into pregnancy, except when necessary to protect the life or health of the mother.

Republicans who opposed the measure claimed it would allow parents to be excluded from their children's medical decisions and lead to abortions later in pregnancy. Less than 1% of all abortions performed in 2020 occurred at or after 21 weeks gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abortion-rights advocates are looking to combat stringent abortion laws and protect abortion access through citizen-initiated ballot measures following the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade roughly 17 months ago. In addition to the campaign in Ohio that put the issue directly before voters, abortion-rights groups are mounting similar efforts to land proposals guaranteeing reproductive rights on the ballot in Florida, Arizona, and Nevada in 2024.


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