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Abortion still hot issue in Ohio two years after Roe v. Wade was overturned

Opponents of the US Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion at the Ohio Statehouse in June 2022
Karen Kasler
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Statehouse News Bureau
Opponents of the US Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion at the Ohio Statehouse in June 2022

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the ruling that protected abortion rights for almost 50 years. But the issue is front and center in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, less than a year after voters passed constitutional protection for reproductive rights.

On the anniversary of the contentious ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, proponents of abortion rights spoke to reporters about the continued importance of the issue in a call organized by Ohio Democrats. They included author and women's rights activist Gloria Steinem, who said it's up to women to vote for people who will protect abortion rights.

"We are responsible for and subject to the fundamental right to decide our own bodily integrity. It is, it is up to us. It is as basic, at least as basic, as freedom of speech or freedom of assembly," Steinem said.

Author and reproductive rights activist, Gloria Steinem, spoke to Ohio news reporters about the importance of voting for candidates who support abortion.
Zoom
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Zoom.com
Author and reproductive rights activist, Gloria Steinem, spoke to Ohio news reporters about the importance of voting for candidates who support abortion.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was on the call too. He said there is a big difference between him and his Republican opponent Bernie Moreno when it comes to reproductive rights.

Brown said he thinks most Ohioans want reproductive rights. And to prove it, he pointed to last November’s vote on Issue 1, a constitutional amendment to guarantee abortion, birth control, IVF, and other reproductive rights. Brown noted Ohio voters passed it by 57%.

“Conservative counties, liberal counties, rural counties, metro counties voted pretty overwhelmingly. Delaware County, historically a Republican county, passed it by almost 20 percent," Brown said.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speaks to a crowd at a rally at the Ohio Statehouse to oppose the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade
Jo Ingles
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Statehouse News Bureau
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) speaks to a crowd at a rally at the Ohio Statehouse to oppose the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Democrats are hoping to parlay the momentum from two key ballot issues last year into wins for candidates this year. In addition to winning Issue 1 last November, in August Democrats had shot down an earlier Issue 1. That was a Republican-backed amendment to make it harder to pass citizen-led constitutional amendments in the future.

The Ohio Democratic Party took notice of those wins. It's placing ads on social media on the issue, in hopes that voters will elect abortion rights candidates.

Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis appeared on "The State of Ohio" on May 13, 2022.
Screenshot
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"The State of Ohio"
Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis appeared on "The State of Ohio" on May 13, 2022.

The last time abortion played a role in a statewide race was two years ago, in the governor’s race. Democrats attempted to make reproductive rights a central campaign issue for former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley's campaign. Whaley lost to current Republican Gov. Mike DeWine 63%-37%.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said he thinks most voters are going to side with Moreno and other Republicans on the abortion issue, because he said GOP candidates are focusing on alternatives to make lives better for moms and babies.

"At the end of the day, it's going to be the pro-life candidates talking about common-sense approaches to helping women - diapers, car seats, cribs, formula, health care, housing. The Democrats - the pro-choice Democrats - all they offer is abortion on demand," Gonidakis said.

DeWine recently signed a bipartisan bill that aims to lower the state's higher-than-average infant mortality rate. Supermajority Republicans have also passed legislation for pregnancy resource centers, which counsel against abortion and offer diapers, cribs, and other supplies. Those bills have not garnered Democratic support because those facilities are aligned with organizations or churches that oppose abortion.

Moreno opposed Issue 1 last fall. He hasn't been talking much about abortion lately though he has been supportive of anti-abortion causes in the past.

Statement on reproductive rights from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno's campaign
Jo Ingles/Sarah Donaldson
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Statehouse News Bureau
Statement on reproductive rights from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno's campaign

In a written statement, Moreno's spokesperson Reagan McCarthy said voters are more concerned about illegal immigrants, inflation, and the economy. McCarthy said Moreno wants abortion decided at the state level and supports exceptions for it in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother.

It's not just the U.S. Senate race where abortion is expected to be a key issue this fall in Ohio.

Three Ohio Supreme Court seats are up for grabs. Two incumbents will be on the ballot as well as candidates vying for the open seat that was vacated last year when Justice Sharon Kennedy was elected chief justice. The court is in Republican control now 4-3, but if Democrats win those three seats up this fall, the power would shift.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.