Vote Yes on Issue 1 

What a difference three months make! Leading up to the August 8 special election, we were exhorting people to vote No on Issue 1. We are shifting 180 degrees for the November 7 election, encouraging people to vote Yes on State Issue 1. The reason for this shift, of course, is that Issue 1 on the August 8 ballot was completely different from Issue 1 which will appear on the November ballot.

Issue 1 in November is the Reproductive Freedom Amendment which, if passed, will limit the power of state government to control individual Ohioans’ decisions about their reproductive health. The Amendment will limit the state government’s ability to regulate the use of contraceptives, fertility treatment, and abortion. The Amendment will not abolish all power of state government to regulate these matters, but it will create a greater zone of protection for individuals and their physicians to make these crucial life decisions based on their own circumstances, needs, and values instead of having one size fits all decisions imposed on them according to whatever ideology is prevailing in the Ohio General Assembly at any given time. A yes vote on November Issue 1 is as close to a “no-brainer” as you can get in an election. Surely, conservatives who asserted that the State cannot be allowed to require people to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of a fatal disease would agree that the State also has no business dictating whether or not people may use contraceptives or have an abortion.

Consistency, however, is not a conservative value. Many conservatives who loudly decry supposed government deprivations of citizens’ “freedom” and “liberty” strongly support government action to deprive citizens of freedom and liberty when it comes to matters involving reproduction. Some of those conservatives hold official positions which give them the opportunity to try manipulating the vote on November Issue 1. They are taking that opportunity.

The Ohio Ballot Board is a state agency chaired by the Ohio Secretary of State. Among other things, the Ballot Board is empowered by Article II, Section 1g of the Ohio Constitution to prescribe the ballot language when a citizen-initiative constitutional amendment appears on the election ballot.

The standards which govern this action by the Ballot Board appear in Article XVI, Section 1 of our state constitution. In pertinent part, Article XVI, Section 1 says that “[t]he ballot need not contain the full text or a condensed text of the proposal.” However, the Ballot Board is required to put language on the ballot that “shall properly identify the substance of the proposal to be voted on.”

The current Republican majority on the Ballot Board apparently believes that the requirement to “properly” describe the substance of the proposed amendment gives them license to try to influence how voters vote on the amendment.The language which the Ballot Board majority mandated to appear on the November ballot about Issue 1, the Reproductive Freedom Amendment, is an obvious attempt to persuade voters to vote against the amendment.

Of course, everyone has the First Amendment right to try to persuade voters. The difference is that no one except the Ballot Board majority gets to write the language which voters see on their ballot. That the Ballot Board majority feels empowered to use its exclusive control over what appears on the ballot epitomizes Republican rule in Ohio. Anything is “proper” if they think it helps them achieve what they want.

The Ballot Board majority’s ballot language is longer than the actual text of the amendment. The ballot language uses the phrase “unborn child” at least four times. The phrase “unborn child” is a fiction created by abortion opponents.

The ballot language also states that the amendment would “prohibit the citizens of the State of Ohio” from taking certain actions. The amendment would do no such thing. If adopted, the amendment will not prohibit Ohio citizens from doing anything. To the contrary, the amendment will give Ohio citizens legally protected rights to do certain things. The amendment would only put limits on the power of the state government. Only in this context would Republicans argue that the government and the citizens are one and the same.

Obviously, the disinformation campaign against November Issue 1, the Reproductive Freedom Amendment, has already started. Equally obviously, the Republicans in state government are using their taxpayer-funded official positions to affect the vote on November Issue 1.

Polling has consistently shown that a majority of Ohioans support allowing legal access to abortion. The right-wing ideologues in Columbus are not the only “citizens of the State of Ohio” who matter. We need to work hard between now and November 7 to get all the citizens of Ohio to vote in favor of rights for all citizens of Ohio.

I hope you had a good Labor Day holiday. I also hope you took at least a few moments to think about the importance and dignity of labor and to, at least silently, thank organized labor for all it has done for all of us whether or not we belong to a union.