The US state of Ohio has voted to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, with early results showing that more than 55 per cent of the people have backed the ballot measure. Abortion is currently legal in Ohio until 22 weeks of pregnancy. With 93 per cent of the vote in as of early Wednesday morning, the measure, known as Issue 1, passed by a margin of 55.8 per cent to 44.2 per cent, CBS News reported. Issue 1 extends an unbeaten record for ballot measures designed to protect abortion rights since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade — which gave the Constitutional right to abortion — in June last year.
This is the seventh such measure to pass. The amendment will change the state’s constitution to include protections for abortion access. It will establish “an individual right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment,” including abortion, contraception and miscarriage care, the BBC reported. The ballot measure explicitly prohibits the state from “directly or indirectly burdening, penalising or prohibiting abortion” before viability, which is generally considered to be around 23 weeks of pregnancy. It also allows the state to bar abortion after the point of viability except in instances where the patient’s doctor determines the procedure is needed to protect life or health.
In the 111 years since Ohio first granted voters the power to introduce citizen-led amendments, just 19 of 71 proposed measures have passed. In a statement issued on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden celebrated the results and reiterated that his administration will work to protect access to reproductive health care, CBS News reported. The President also called on Congress to codify the right to abortion in federal law. “Ohioans and voters across the country rejected attempts by MAGA Republican elected officials to impose extreme abortion bans that put the health and lives of women in jeopardy, force women to travel hundreds of miles for care, and threaten to criminalise doctors and nurses for providing the health care that their patients need and that they are trained to provide. “This extreme and dangerous agenda is out-of-step with the vast majority of Americans,” he added.
According to a recent CBS News poll, 57 per cent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, as opposed to 42 per cent who think it should be illegal. Additionally, 74 per cent of Americans are concerned that pregnant women may be more at risk in states with restrictions on abortion; 60 per cent are worried about hospitals and maternity care centres closing; and 52 per cent are concerned about doctors leaving those states. Since the June 2022 Supreme Court decision, 14 states in the US have made abortion illegal. Abortion is protected by state law in 21 states and the District of Columbia; and is at risk of being severely limited or prohibited in 26 states.