Extremists Are Attacking Abortion Rights and Democracy in Ohio. Here’s How We Fight Back.

Ohio voters are heading to the polls on Tuesday to decide Issue 1, which would make it harder to change the state constitution. It's an attack on abortion.

Graphic illustration of an outline of Ohio with boxing gloves punching the state
For a measure that purports to be about keeping outside interests at bay in Ohio politics, Issue 1 is in part being bankrolled Dick Uihlein, a billionaire from Illinois who also reportedly helped fund the January 6, 2021 attacks on the Capitol. Cage Rivera/Rewire News Group illustration

Update, August 9: Ohio voters soundly rejected Issue 1. The threshold for passing constitutional amendments in the state will continue to be a simple majority.

In July, reproductive freedom advocates in Ohio delivered a whopping 709,786 signatures—nearly double the required amount—to secure a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortions and contraception to all Ohioans on the ballot in November. Two weeks ago, this ballot measure was certified and will be on the ballot this November, an incredible success considering the hurdles extremists are placing to thwart the measure.

An additional special election with a $20 million price tag for taxpayers is taking place in Ohio on Tuesday to decide Issue 1, which would make it harder for voters to pass ballot measures that change the state constitution—including the November ballot initiative—by establishing a higher threshold of 60 percent of votes to do so.

This is a thinly veiled attack on Ohioans’ reproductive freedoms. How do we know this? Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose admitted Issue 1 is 100 percent about abortion. For a measure that purports to be about keeping outside interests at bay in Ohio politics, Issue 1 is in part being bankrolled by a wealthy donor from Illinois.

With the fall of Roe v. Wade, state legislatures have become the main arbiters of reproductive rights, and extremists in statehouses are doing everything they can to cement their anti-choice agendas, including undermining our democracy. Just as in Ohio, anti-abortion zealots in Missouri and Florida are also working to create more challenging standards for ballot measures by demanding 60 percent and 67 percent of votes, respectively, to pass any new proposals.

By seeking to change the rules of our democracy, these lawmakers are working to override the will of the people to ensure we do not get a say in our own states’ abortion laws. It’s a tactical extension of the greater anti-democracy playbook that includes placing election deniers in positions that oversee election administration and thwart the will of the voters.

We refuse to sit back and let this happen on our watch. We are determined to have abortion access in this country be the standard, and we have our own tested and proven formula to win: engaging and activating our people.

Every successful movement in history has employed awareness building, engagement, and centering those who are most vulnerable, and ours is no different. People power is at the heart of the fight to protect abortion.

The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization initially lit a fire in many, but we must sustain it to keep our fight going. Civic engagement is not a seasonal gig—it is a lifestyle. It’s that mentality that led local activists in Michigan to rally support for a ballot measure protecting abortion access by garnering more than 750,000 signatures—more than any in state history—and pass with 55.7 percent of the vote.

Voting is the cornerstone and foundation of our democracy, and it can only thrive when all voters are informed and educated on what’s at stake. This makes the language we use to communicate with voters all the more important, especially when speaking with Black and brown communities.

Far too often, communities of color have been neglected in political battles and policy discussions. Ultimately, that’s left them even more vulnerable to attacks from bigots in power. Black women are most at-risk in states with limited or no abortion access. Black women are nearly four times more likely to have an abortion and three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. These facts show we must prioritize and center Black women’s experiences in the ways we discuss abortion access.

It is clear that anti-choice extremists are afraid of the power that voters wield to not only reject their deadly agenda, but to build a nation that lives up to its founding ideals and becomes a multiracial democracy that works for all of us. While opponents of democracy and abortion rights continue to try to change the rules to cling to power, we will use our platforms to educate voters and motivate them to protect their rights and interests.

We have the tools, the power, and the playbook to protect abortion access for generations to come, and we will work to make our winning formula—one that has been used by many who came before—the strategy to rebuild this nation into the multiracial democracy we deserve. Together, we will dismantle barriers and create a society where reproductive rights are not just protected, but celebrated as a fundamental human right. Join us in our fight.