Editorial: When will Republicans get the message that people want their abortion rights?

Dennis Willard celebrates the results of the election.
Dennis Willard celebrates election results in Ohio, where voters resoundingly rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it more difficult to pass abortion protections.
(Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

Here is the lesson from Tuesday’s special election in Ohio, where voters resoundingly defeated a ballot measure that would have made it more difficult to pass state constitutional amendments — notably the one enshrining abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution on the November ballot:

People support abortion rights — and democracy.

Even people in a state that elected conservative leaders were highly motivated to participate in a hastily called special election in the dog days of summer with just one item on the ballot that wasn’t about abortion but had everything to do with abortion.

The measure, Issue 1, which would have raised the threshold for passing a constitutional amendment ballot measure from a simple majority to a 60% supermajority, was placed on the ballot by the Republican-dominated legislature just a year after the same state legislature voted to eliminate most August special elections because of cost and low turnout. It would have also made it harder to collect the number of signatures needed to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot by requiring signatures from all of Ohio’s 88 counties. Currently, signatures need to come from 44 of the counties.


Ohio legislators are holding a special election to increase the threshold needed to pass a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access.

July 12, 2023

Legislators made no secret that Issue 1 was an unabashed attempt to make it more difficult to pass a citizen-initiated amendment to the state constitution enshrining the right to an abortion up to fetal viability (or beyond when needed to protect the health of the pregnant person). Abortion protection amendments in other states have passed with simple majorities but under 60%.

Why have Republican leaders failed to grasp that the majority of Americans support the protection of abortion rights, regardless of the political leanings of the state in which they live? Last year, 59% of Kansas voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have declared abortion not protected by the constitution. Voters in Michigan, Kentucky, California and Vermont passed constitutional amendments in 2022 either making it clear they want abortion rights protected or rejecting amendments that did away with protections.

Tuesday’s election result shows that voters are smart enough not to fall for a sneaky ruse to make it more difficult to pass abortion protections. Even some Republicans balked at this anti-democratic attempt to hamper the ability of people to change their state constitution. Four former Ohio governors — two Democrats and two Republicans (including John Kasich, who supported abortion restrictions when he was governor) — spoke out against Issue 1.

Voters in five states gave abortion rights a clear victory on election day.

Nov. 9, 2022

When the issue of abortion is put in the hands of state voters, they have chosen to protect it. The Ohio measure was rejected by 57% of the voters, which mirrors the 57.6% of Ohioans who said in a recent poll they support the abortion rights constitutional amendment. Nearly 700,000 early in-person and mail ballots were cast. That’s more than twice the roughly 289,000 early votes cast in the May 2022 Ohio primaries, which featured Democrats and Republicans running for U.S. Senate and governor, according to Ohio-based WOUB Public Media. When will Republican leaders stop being so myopic and realize that trying to take away abortion rights is a colossal failure at the polls?

It’s heartening to see people rise up to support abortion rights and democracy. In the year since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe vs. Wade and took away the constitutional protection of abortion rights, the fight to protect abortion rights has gained momentum, but is far from over. The battles over reproductive rights continue across the country and even in Ohio. Trouncing Issue 1 was just the first step. Ohio voters must once again turn out in November to exercise their right to amend their state constitution — by a reasonable majority — and ensure that it protects the right to an abortion.