Voting on Abortion – The New York Times

On Tuesday, Ohio voters will decide whether to protect access to abortion in their state.

The measure on the ballot, known as Issue 1, would change the state’s Constitution to provide the right for every person to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” before a fetus is viable outside the womb (usually around 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy). If Issue 1 passes, Ohio will become the latest state to vote to protect or expand abortion access. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, abortion rights have gone six for six in elections, including in red states, when voters have made direct decisions on the issue.

A defeat for Issue 1, on the other hand, may suggest that abortion opponents have figured out a successful counterstrategy. In August, an Ohio elections board, which Republicans control, approved ballot language that differs significantly from the language that would appear in the Constitution if voters approve the measure. Among other changes, the board substituted the phrase “unborn child” for “fetus.”

Opponents of Issue 1 have also recently suggested that the measure isn’t necessary because abortion rights are already protected in Ohio. “You can have an abortion up to and through the fifth month of pregnancy,” the president of Ohio Right to Life, Mike Gonidakis, has said. That is correct for now, but state legislators have passed a six-week abortion ban, and the temporary court order that is blocking it is being appealed to the conservative Ohio Supreme Court.

The problem that Issue 1’s opponents are trying to solve is that most voters — including one-third of Republicans in Ohio — support access to abortion. “The pro-life side had it easy when abortion was legal,” Steven Mitchell, a Republican pollster who says he is pro-life, told me for a story in September for The New York Times Magazine. “But things went crazy when people saw that was taken away.”

Recent polls have found that support for Issue 1 is between 52 percent and 59 percent. (The measure needs only a simple majority to pass because Ohio voters resoundingly rejected an August initiativepromoted by Republicans, that would have raised the threshold to 60 percent.) Opposition has ranged from 27 percent to 36 percent, with the remaining voters undecided.

Abortion-rights advocates in Ohio have emphasized the message that a ban at six weeks, when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant, is extreme. one recent ad features a father of three who says he grew up “in the church” and was raised to think abortion was wrong, but now thinks that it’s “insane” to ban abortion without providing exceptions for rape or the health of the mother (other than in a “medical emergency”).

The results in Ohio will shape the political strategies of both sides. Campaigns to collect signatures for similar measures to protect abortion rights in 2024 are underway in Florida, Arizona and at least four other states. These initiatives could both expand abortion access and influence other races that determine who controls state governments, Congress and the presidency.

Mitchell told me that he saw a broad threat to the Republican Party. In Michigan, where he lives, a successful campaign to pass an abortion-rights measure, much like the one in Ohio, appeared to increase turnout to the benefit of Democrats last year. The effect was especially pronounced among young voters — who will be voting for many years to come.

It’s not surprising, then, that Republicans are trying to keep abortion-related measures off the ballot in 2024. The attorney general of Florida says she will argue that the proposed initiative language in her state is invalid. In Missouri, Republican officials have been trying to put roadblocks in the way of a 2024 measure — in the latest gambit, the attorney general says that his office will refuse to defend an abortion-rights initiative in court if it passes and that, as a As a result, he estimates taxpayers will have to pay $21 million in legal fees.

Tuesday’s elections will also provide a signal about a different Republican strategy. In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin has persuaded Republicans running for legislative seats to support a 15-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life (but not health) of the mother. An October poll showed that Virginia voters were almost evenly split on the 15-week ban. National polls show that while more than two out of three Americans support abortion rights in the first trimester (when more than 90 percent of abortions take place), support falls to one in three in the second trimester.

Virginia Republicans “aren’t looking to win over abortion-rights supporters so much as they want to neutralize the party’s disadvantage with swing voters,” my colleague Trip Gabriel writes, While abortion rights helped flip the Michigan Legislature to Democrats last year, in Florida, Texas and some other red states, Democratic candidates failed to unseat Republican incumbents despite campaigning on the issue.

Virginia Democrats are spending heavily to tell voters that Youngkin’s 15-week proposal would reduce access in the only remaining Southern state without a ban or severe restrictions in effect or awaiting court review. ,This Times map shows which states have abortion bans.)

The election results next week, in red-leaning Ohio and blue-leaning Virginia, will tell us a lot about whether abortion, post-Roe, will continue to be a boon for Democrats — or present more mixed prospects.

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