COLUMBUS, OHIO — For almost half a century, the Left, its institutions, and the federal government have told women that their right to bodily autonomy extends to the infant growing within their womb. Eventually, a majority of women — many of whom grew up in an age of nearly unrestricted abortion — believed them. As we found out this week, that belief will take a lot longer than just one year to dislodge.
On Tuesday, Ohio voters approved an amendment that enshrines a “right to reproductive freedom” — i.e., to almost unrestricted abortion — after a monthslong campaign that saw tens of millions of dollars pouring in from national organizations on both sides (the pro-abortion campaign saw exponentially more funding than the pro-life campaign).
The election wasn’t even close. According to NBC News, 56.5 percent of voters approved the issue while 43.4 percent disapproved, a difference of 13.1 percentage points. Deeply unnerving is that support was widespread across a variety of demographics. Men, women, white, black, Hispanic — it didn’t matter. Yet the amendment is arguably far more radical than most people want. (READ MORE: Tuberville Stands Alone)
“If a voter is comfortable with abortion up until the time of birth, they’re probably going to be okay with this amendment — if they’re comfortable with parents not being involved in the most important decision their daughter will ever make or certainly has made up until that point in her life. If they’re okay with that, then they should vote for this,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Fox News Digital last month.
Vague Wording Made the Pro-Abortion Argument Easier
One problem in Ohio was that the amendment’s language was extremely vague. Pro-life advocates were telling voters that the initiative would take away parents’ rights to have a say in the medical care their children received — whether that care was abortion or gender-transition treatments like hormone therapy and surgery. That analysis is probably accurate, but that’s not what voters were reading or being told by the media.
What the amendment says is that “any individual” has a “right to reproductive freedom,” “including, but not limited to abortion.” The word “parent” doesn’t appear anywhere, and voters en masse don’t generally read into the possible and likely court translations of vague language.
In the meantime, voters were being told that if the amendment didn’t pass, a six-week abortion ban that has been working its way through courts for months would finally go into effect, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother. They were being told that the government was trying to make decisions about their reproductive health for them, a message that wasn’t true but that certainly worked on Ohio voters who want less government interference in their daily lives.
“Issue 1 passed because abortion activists and outside Democrat donors ran a campaign of fear to Ohio voters: vote for this ballot measure or women will die. Their pervasive lie that women will die without Issue 1 was propped up by massive ad spending, funded by George Soros and a left-wing media machine which operated like Planned Parenthood’s PR department,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. (RELATED from Aubrey Gulick: Abortions Went Up After Dobbs)
While Ohio was the only state voting explicitly on abortion, states like Kentucky and Virginia made implicit decisions on the issue. In Kentucky, Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection after campaigning on providing exceptions to the state’s near-total abortion ban — even though Kentucky is a red-leaning state.
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Glenn Younkin encouraged voters to turn Virginia’s state government red, campaigning on a 15-week abortion ban. On Tuesday, voters responded by preserving a blue majority in the state Senate and flipping the House in favor of Democrats.
The election looks to be a vindication of an AP-NORC poll from earlier this year that found “about two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal in the early stages of pregnancy.”
This Isn’t the End in Ohio
Pro-life legislators in Ohio have already shared plans to combat the amendment. Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens said: “As a 100% pro-life conservative, I remain steadfastly committed to protecting life, and that commitment is unwavering … the Legislature has multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life.” One such path may be to put abortion on the ballot again in 2024, a possibility Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman has raised. (READ MORE: How Lindsey Graham Sabotaged the Pro-Life Movement Post Dobbs)
While continuing to fight for life on the legislative side is necessary and commendable, it’s hardly enough. The problem in Ohio — and in the U.S. more broadly — is that the state is not culturally pro-life. Unfortunately, changing that is harder than knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors or making millions of phone calls, and it’s going to take a lot longer than a year.
“The challenge that we give to the other side, today and in a renewed way: Show the American people what an abortion is. Describe what you defend,” Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said. “There’s reason today to be upset and disappointed but we will never be discouraged. We will keep exposing the truth about abortion. When abortion is exposed, the American people reject it.”
It took more than 50 years to get us to the point, and the hard truth is that it’s going to take at least that to reverse the culture of death we live in. It’s difficult, but not impossible.