Ohio Pro-Lifers Need to Get Out and Vote August 8

Pro-abortion money, especially from out of state, is targeting the Ohio Constitution

Pro-abortionists in Ohio are pulling all stops to pass a state constitutional amendment by ballot referendum this November to ensconce abortion in the Buckeye State. The amendment is particularly aggressive because, in addition to wiping out all prenatal protections through birth (notwithstanding window-dressing language about “viability” that is promptly eviscerated with “health” exceptions), it also protects artificial methods of reproduction (in vitro, surrogacy) and would almost certainly require state subvention of all of them.

Pro-lifers have launched a two-prong effort: to engage the amendment on its direct terms in November, but to use a technical change by an August 8 referendum to nullify its effect.

Ohio voters go to the polls August 8 (yep, in the dog days of summer) to vote on a Constitutional amendment that would require a 60% approval margin for any referendum-initiated Constitutional amendment to take effect. Right now, the Ohio Constitution can be amended by referendum as long as it gets one more “yes” than “no” vote in the ballot box.

Abortionists are complaining this effort “undermines democracy” and certain Catholics are joining the fight on that side [see here]. It’s a strange “democracy” that considers “democracy” more important than life or that any majority can take away human rights. But, quite apart from that, Ohio’s system is also an outlier. Constitutions, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, are “made for people of fundamentally differing views,” which is why they are — and should be — notoriously difficult to amend. Because they settle the basic trajectory of law in a jurisdiction, they should not be changeable “for light or transitory reasons,” and should reflect something more than a momentary consensus. That is why most states require Constitutional amendments to go through two votes in the Legislature — often with an intervening election — before being put on the ballot. Simple majoritarianism is not the usual way Constitutions are changed.

Ohio’s Issue 1 also raises the geographical bar from where signatures for initiative-driven Constitutional amendments must come: all Ohio counties, as opposed to today’s rule (44, i.e., half of them). Why is this important (and not just another barrier)? Because Ohio is a microcosm of America (which is why it’s often a bellwether state): urban, suburban, and rural. The current simple majority of counties rule turns much of Ohio into “flyover country”; groups can run up signatures in big cities (especially those with political machines, like Cleveland and its Cuyahoga County) to amass them, give lip service to some neighboring counties, and ignore the rest of the state. That is not representative of all Ohioans, as Rachel Citak of Cincinnati Right to Life has noted [see here].

Going back to the main idea of Issue 1, an enhanced majority to adopt amendments: The question of a simple, one vote majority in a referendum becomes even more acute when issues arise about the integrity and accuracy of ballot tallies. Changing constitutions on such narrow grounds also makes the process prone to abuse by special interests, and if there was ever a special interest — with out-of-state money to pursue its agenda — it’s the abortion industry. 2023 is an off-year for elections, meaning they’ll throw the kitchen sink into both the Ohio referendum and taking control of the Virginia legislature. If there was ever a time for Catholics to follow the Master’s advice about being “cunning as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16) on matters political, it’s in voting “yes” on Issue 1 on August 8.

 

John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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