Voters in US state of Ohio to weigh in on abortion rights

Abortion rights have remained fiercely contested since a Supreme Court ruling allowed states to ban the practice.

Protestors hold signs in the state capital
In the time since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, which legalised abortion across the country, some Democrat-led states, such as Minnesota, have moved to protect and expand abortion rights, while conservative-leaning states have moved to restrict or ban the practice [File: Steve Karnowski/AP Photo]

Residents of Ohio are voting in statewide elections where a measure that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution is on the ballot.

The measure could decide the future of abortion access for millions of people in the state as voters head to the polls on Tuesday. The outcome of the vote could also serve as an indication of the urgency voters will assign to abortion rights in the 2024 election.

The vote comes more than one year after the US Supreme Court threw the country’s abortion rights landscape into flux with a ruling in June 2022 that allowed states to further restrict or even ban abortion.

In the time since, many conservative states have moved to restrict the practice or ban it outright, including some bans that include no exceptions for extreme cases, such as pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

But supporters of abortion rights have been buoyed by a number of state-level ballots in which voters have largely shown their preference for maintaining access to abortion.

In the Republican stronghold of Kansas in August 2022, voters rejected a bid to remove abortion rights from the state constitution by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent.

Seeing those victories, alongside polling that finds abortion bans consistently unpopular, abortion rights advocates have fought to put the issue before voters wherever possible.

While Ohio’s voters will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, supporters of abortion have pushed for similar measures to appear on the ballot in states such as Arizona and Florida.

Ohio voters rejected a separate Republican-backed referendum in August that would have raised the threshold for amending the state constitution from a simple majority of the vote to 60 percent.

Democrats have made abortion rights a central theme of recent elections, sensing an opportunity to hammer their Republican rivals over positions that are widely unpopular.

In the southern state of Virginia, where elections are also being held on Tuesday, Democrats who currently hold a majority in the State Senate have warned that a Republican victory would open the door to further restrictions on abortion.

Indeed, some Republicans have said that they want to see existing restrictions go further.

Several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, such as Senator Tim Scott and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, have suggested that they would support a nationwide ban, with some uncertainty regarding what such a ban would look like.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies