Ohio Issue 1: Right wing spent millions on transphobic ads to restrict abortion. They failed

An activist seen holding a placard that says protect safe, legal abortion

Voters in Ohio have rejected Issue 1, a proposal that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution, marking a victory for abortion rights campaigners.

Pro-choice campaigners in Ohio are pushing for an amendment in November that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.

Issue 1 was a proposed constitutional amendment hat would have made this more difficult, requiring any citizen-initiated amendment to obtain a supermajority (60 per cent) of votes to proceed.

The proposal that was rejected in a special election on Tuesday (8 August), by a margin of 57 per cent to 43 per cent.

In a statement on Tuesday, president Joe Biden said: “Today, Ohio voters rejected an effort by Republican lawmakers and special interests to change the state’s constitutional amendment process. 

“This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health-care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.”

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A survey in July found that 58 per cent of Ohio voters support the effort to change the state’s constitution to protect access to abortions.

A ban on abortions after six weeks in Ohio, known as the heartbeat bill, has been in effect since 2019, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

A state court later blocked the six-week limit, meaning abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy are permitted, with legal proceedings continuing. 

Right-wing group launched anti-trans ad campaign on Ohio Issue 1

Last month, NBC News reported that anti-abortion groups were campaigning for Issue 1 by attempting to link abortion rights with trans rights – falsely claiming the proposed amendment would pave the way for trans youth to undergo gender-affirming surgeries without parental consent. 

The anti-abortion group, Protect Women Ohio, produced several adverts that claimed the amendment could “take away parental rights [and] ability to be informed and to make decisions for their children”. 

NBC News revealed the adverts had been found to be “misdirection, designed to distract voters from protecting abortion rights”. 

Protests broke out across the US after long-held legislation that made access to an abortion a federal right was struck down last year. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Kelley Robinson, the president of Human Rights Campaign, said after Issue 1 was defeated: Today’s victory was essential [in] ensuring that LGBTQ+ rights, abortion rights and, more broadly, Ohioans’ rights and values, are reflected in how their state is governed.

“Voters rejected politicians’ lies and their attempt to attack LGBTQ+ youth for political gain. Let this be a message to others who try that same playbook.

“In the weeks leading up until the election, groups pushed a dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation campaign and funnelled millions of dollars into ads attacking trans youth,” she claimed. 

“The majority of the ads were designed to scare parents, advancing grotesque and craven narratives that out-of-state special interests were taking away parental rights.”

Ohio, like many states in the US, has attempted to pass several anti-LGBTQ+ laws this year, including the advancement of a bill in June that would limit gender-affirming care for young trans people.