Abortion advocates have their sights set on Ohio this fall. On Nov. 7, Ohioans will vote on the “Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion” Initiative to amend the state’s constitution.
The key word in the title of this proposal is “including,” because it is about much more than abortion. Its backers hope that the focus on abortion will distract voters from the other left-wing policy aims hidden in this Trojan horse.
The Ohio Legislature has been responsible for abortion policy since the state was founded. In 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” into law, making abortion a crime after about six weeks of pregnancy, when a baby’s heartbeat can be detected.
Abortion clinics have challenged this law under the state constitution, and the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case. This is why abortion advocates want an explicit right to abortion added to the Ohio Constitution. The initiative would create a right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” which include abortion, contraception, fertility treatments, miscarriage care, and continuing a pregnancy.
Here are just some of the initiative’s numerous problems.
First, while the measure lists some “reproductive decisions,” it also adds the magic words “but not limited to.” In other words, no one on Election Day will know what the measure they will vote on really covers. And no one will ever really know. Just as the U.S. Supreme Court invented a right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, so the Ohio courts will continuously “amend” the Ohio Constitution by interpreting this open-ended phrase as they please.
How far could they go? It is hardly a stretch to see that reproductive decisions involve reproductive organs. Bingo! The gender ideology door is now open for “reproductive decisions” to include permanently altering the body and its capability for reproduction.
But, you might say, certainly this would apply only to adults who (presumably) can make informed decisions about such profound matters. You’d be wrong. This ballot measure refers only to the “individual,” erasing any distinction between males and females and between adults and minors.
Children would have a constitutional right to make and carry out reproductive decisions. Equating children and adults in the constitution blocks the Legislature from enacting any laws to require parental involvement, either consent or mere notification, in decisions about the full range of reproductive and gender decisions.
This radical concept goes far beyond anything the Supreme Court ever did. It repeatedly recognized what we all know: that minors “often lack the ability to make fully informed choices.”
In Ohio, minors must have their parents’ consent to make many choices far less significant or life-changing than reproductive and gender decisions, such as getting a tattoo or receiving medical treatment.
This measure would not only directly shut parents out of this category of decisions, but its broader impact on parental rights will not be known until the courts—in cases brought by zealous ideologues—tell Ohioans what that impact will be.
Not only does this measure isolate children from parents, it also legally insulates anyone who “assists” isolated minors in making and carrying out reproductive decisions. Teachers, friends, predators, or anyone else could pressure children into taking these life-altering steps while parents would be left dealing with the aftermath of decisions they did not even know had been made.
But there’s more to this right to carry out reproductive decisions. The Supreme Court has consistently held that a woman’s “right” to have an abortion does not require that taxpayers subsidize the procedure. If this measure passes in November, however, the Ohio Constitution will guarantee a right to both make and carry out reproductive decisions. Therefore, lawsuits asking courts to require Ohioans to foot the bill for abortion, contraception, and all the rest are certain.
And while the proposal mentions “fetal viability” as the point at which abortion may be restricted, it defines that term more narrowly than the Supreme Court ever did under Roe v. Wade. In 1973, the court defined it as the “point at which the fetus [is] potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb.” The Ohio ballot measure, on the other hand, defines it as “the point in a pregnancy when … the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus.”
The Ohio initiative would move the definition of “viability” later in the pregnancy, allowing an abortion ban only after babies have a “significant likelihood of survival.” And even then, this likelihood is determined solely by the abortionist and can still be trumped by “the pregnant patient’s … health,” which includes whatever the abortionist says it does, including mental health.
Earlier this month, Ohio voters rejected a proposal to require 60% of the popular vote, rather than a simple majority, for amending the state constitution. The immediate focus of the proposal was on the November reproductive decisions ballot measure, but the proposal might have also limited the ill-conceived and broader trend of using the constitution, rather than the legislative process, to make policy decisions.
Legislation—and not a constitutional amendment—is the best vehicle for controversial policies on divisive issues. Constitutions govern government, whereas legislation governs people, and ordinary citizens get to participate in the debate and discussion of legislation through their elected representatives.
In the end, it’s clear that there is a lot more on Ohio’s November ballot than meets the eye.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal