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The Fight for Abortion Rights Continues, Even After Dobbs
I still remember the day Roe v. Wade was overturned. I remember not being surprised, considering the makeup of the uber conservative Supreme Court, but still feeling angry, and most of all, feeling hopeless. The Supreme Court, the “highest court of the land,” had ruled to severely restrict women’s bodily autonomy. It seemed highly unlikely to me that local voters would be able to combat the immense power of the Supreme Court.
Much to my surprise and relief, state constitutions quickly emerged as a tool to protect abortion rights, even in the South, where many anti-abortion laws were put in place almost immediately after the Dobbs decision. In January 2023, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy enshrined in their state constitution included a right to abortion, thereby overturning the state’s previous abortion policy, which banned abortions past six weeks after conception. State constitutions tend to establish more constitutional rights than the United States Constitution, and as a result, abortion rights groups have attempted to utilize state constitutions to legalize abortion on a more micro level.
However, anti-abortion groups are simultaneously trying to amend state constitutions to ensure they prevent access to abortion. Soon after the court decision in South Carolina, the Idaho Supreme Court held that their state constitution did not allow for a right to abortion, and maintained their abortion ban. Because of the battle between pro and anti-abortion groups in state courts, the deciding factor on whether abortion is protected has become the state voters. In a recent special election in Ohio, Ohio citizens voted to reject Issue 1, which would have required any proposed amendments to the state constitution be supported by 60% of voters, rather than the simple majority. This would have made it much more difficult to amend the Ohio State Constitution, stalling abortion rights groups’ attempts to amend the Ohio state constitution to include the right to an abortion. The no vote was victorious, 57% no to 43% yes.
Both supporters and opponents of abortion access have now turned their attention to the November election. Ohio voters will vote on the proposal to explicitly add reproductive rights to the Ohio constitution. The situation in Ohio continues to demonstrate the influence voting can have on shaping governmental policy, and going forward, youth voter turnout could play a huge role in whether proposals to protect abortion pass in Ohio and other states. On the whole, most data sources state that young voters (ages 18-29) are the voter age group most likely to be supportive of abortion rights. A 2022 CBS/YouGov national survey found that 68% of people ages 18-29 did not believe Roe v. Wade should have been overturned, and 72% believed that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. 2 in 5 of young people ages 18-29 said that the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade made them more likely to vote. Young voters have the ability to make a huge impact on civic issues, particularly abortion, by voting in their local elections, so it is imperative that young Ohio voters show up to the polls in November, and that young voters place ballots for their local elections throughout the country.