A flag waves in front of the Athens County Courthouse on Court Street, Oct. 31, 2023. Photo by Megan Van Vlack.

A flag waves in front of the Athens County Courthouse on Court Street, Oct. 31, 2023. Photo by Megan Van Vlack.

Issue 1: Reproductive Rights

Published November 2, 2023

Issue 1: Reproductive Rights

Issue 1 features abortion rights on Nov. ballot

By Anna Millar | For The Post

Issue 1 on Ohio’s Nov. 7 ballot touches on one of the most divisive topics in the country right now - abortion and reproductive rights.

Although this issue is under the same moniker as that in the August special election, it is not the same issue, Solvieg Spjeldnes, a democratic Athens resident, said. In August, Issue 1 addressed majority versus supermajority voting, whereas the current Issue 1 is entirely focused on reproductive rights.

Spjeldnes is the 1st ward representative on the Athens City Council but she said her comments and work on Issue 1 were as a citizen, not a council member.

According to the language on the upcoming ballot, this issue has six main sections that will go into effect if it passes.

The first section establishes in the Ohio constitution the right to reproductive health care which includes abortion but is not limited to only abortions; the second creates legal protection for anyone who helps another gain reproductive care, including but not limited to abortions; and the third section prevents the state from in any way prohibiting or punishing an individual for receiving an abortion prior to the fetus being viable unless the state is using the least restrictive methods.

The fourth section gives a pregnant woman’s doctor the ability to determine fetal viability on an individual basis; the fifth allows the state to prevent abortion only if the fetus is found to be viable and not a risk to the mother’s health; and lastly, the sixth section allows abortion at any stage of pregnancy only if the doctors have found the child to be a risk to the mother’s life or health.

“So, Issue 1 is called the citizen-led ballot initiative,” Hailey Gifford, a second-year graduate student in the environmental studies program and president of OU’s chapter of the ACLU, said. “That basically means that throughout Ohio, we collected signatures–there's a certain amount you need to get on the ballot.”

Following the successful collection of around 745,000 signatures on this issue, the Secretary of State found about 490,000 of them to be valid, Spjeldnes said. Only 400,000 were required to put the issue on the ballot.

“We found that people across the board were interested in getting that on the ballot,” Spjeldnes said. “It was like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, of course, we did this in Athens, but even across the county, and in other nearby counties, we got a lot of cooperation,”

However, Spjeldnes also emphasized her frustration with certain narratives surrounding this issue. Namely, she pointed out there have been some people stating that the issue will allow gender-affirming care; however, this is not stated anywhere within the bill.

Further, Gifford discussed why she believes the Issue is important to the OU student body and others in the community.

“I don't want to sound like, too harsh, but like you can't overstate it, like people will die if this fails,” Gifford said. “I heard the pro-lifers were on campus … campaigning against Issue 1, and I heard them tell somebody that nobody's rights will be stripped away if this doesn't pass, and I just want to make sure that everybody knows that that is not true. If this doesn't pass, the preliminary injunction will get overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court and our six-week abortion ban will get reinstated.”

Oct. 7, 2022, the six-week abortion ban received an injunction from the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, meaning abortions up to 22 weeks are still legal until litigation finishes and a decision is reached. Legally, there has been no statement saying that the ban would go back into place if Issue 1 does not pass; however, many who support the bill believe that will be the case.

The Post attempted to contact State Rep. Jay Edwards for comment, but he wasn’t available for an official statement.

AUTHOR: Anna Millar

EDITOR: Donovan Hunt

COPY EDITOR: Addie Hedges

PHOTOGRAPHY: Megan Van Vlack