News Politics

Ohio GOP lawmakers defy voters and governor on abortion rights

Ohio Republican lawmakers have voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would strip away the constitutional right to abortion access that Ohio voters approved in November 2023. The bill, House Bill 68, also bans transgender athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams and prohibits gender-affirming care for minors.

Voters approved constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights

In the 2023 general election, Ohio voters passed a constitutional amendment by 57% of votes, guaranteeing its citizens the right to abortion access, regardless of any laws passed by the state legislature. The amendment was a response to the numerous restrictions on abortion that the Republican-dominated legislature had enacted in recent years, such as banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, requiring parental consent for minors, and imposing mandatory waiting periods and counseling.

The amendment was hailed by abortion rights advocates as a historic victory for reproductive freedom and democracy in Ohio, a state that has long been a battleground for the abortion debate. The amendment also received support from some moderate Republicans, such as Gov. Mike DeWine, who vetoed the bill that would undermine the amendment.

Ohio GOP lawmakers defy voters and governor on abortion rights

GOP lawmakers claim amendment is vague and ambiguous

However, a group of conservative Republican lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly opposed the amendment and vowed to challenge it in court and in the legislature. They argued that the amendment was vague and ambiguous, and did not specify which laws it would override or how it would be implemented. They also claimed that the amendment violated the state’s interest in protecting unborn life and women’s health.

On January 10, 2024, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 65-28 to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 68, which would nullify the amendment and reinstate the restrictive abortion laws. On January 30, 2024, the Ohio Senate followed suit and voted 23-9 to override the veto, mostly along party lines. The bill is set to take effect in 90 days, unless it is blocked by a court order.

Bill also targets transgender rights and health care

House Bill 68 is not only an attack on abortion rights, but also on transgender rights and health care. The bill prohibits transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports teams, based on the false premise that they have an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes. The bill also bans gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth, such as hormone blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and surgeries. The bill also restricts some mental health services for trans and nonbinary youth, such as counseling and therapy.

These provisions are widely condemned by medical and mental health experts, who say that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, and necessary for the well-being of trans and nonbinary youth. They also warn that denying such care can lead to serious harm, such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide. Moreover, these provisions violate the constitutional rights of trans and nonbinary youth to privacy, autonomy, and equal protection under the law.

Bill faces legal challenges and public backlash

House Bill 68 is likely to face legal challenges from various groups and individuals who will seek to protect their constitutional rights and health care access. The ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Ohio, and other civil rights and reproductive rights organizations have already announced their intention to sue the state over the bill. They will argue that the bill violates the Ohio Constitution, the US Constitution, and the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education, known as Title IX.

The bill also faces public backlash from Ohioans who support abortion rights and transgender rights. According to a recent poll by the Ohio State University, 62% of Ohioans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 54% of Ohioans support allowing transgender athletes to play on the sports team that matches their gender identity. Many Ohioans have also expressed their anger and disappointment with the GOP lawmakers who ignored the will of the voters and the governor, and accused them of wasting time and money on a divisive and unconstitutional bill.


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