Pro-life group addresses what went wrong in Ohio abortion vote, how to respond in 2024

One of the largest pro-life groups in the United States released a memo outlining why it believes a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion access into the Ohio constitution passed Tuesday night in a state Donald Trump carried by eight points in 2020.

“In Ohio, pro-abortion forces spent a staggering $66.7 million, outspending pro-life forces by a 2:1 margin to fuel a campaign centered on lies and deception to muscle through a constitutional amendment designed to allow unlimited, unregulated abortion,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said in a memo released Wednesday.

“The staggering sum spent by pro-abortion forces and the tens of millions of ‘in-kind’ contributions made by the media overwhelmed the ability of the pro-life movement and Governor DeWine to communicate the facts to the voters. In the closing weeks, pro-abortion forces outspent pro-life forces $19 million to $7.7 million on television, nearly a 3:1 advantage.”

In addition to being outspent and outblitzed on media channels, Dannenfelser wrote that pro-choice groups misleadingly framed Ohio Issue 1 as a situation where “women would be left to die” despite “clear language in Ohio’s law allowing for life-saving care.”

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“Further, the ballot language deceived voters into thinking the amendment allows for limits on abortion after the point of viability,” Dannenfelser wrote. “In reality, the vague ‘health’ exception in its language is a major loophole that allows for late-term abortion without limit and allows the abortionist to determine viability.”

Ohioans voted in favor of Issue 1 Tuesday night by a margin of 13 points, after a contentious campaign between pro-life groups who argued the measure went “too far” and even further than Roe v. Wade, while pro-choice activists said the measure was necessary to codify abortion access into law after Roe’s reversal by the Supreme Court.

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“The future is bright, and tonight we can celebrate this win for bodily autonomy and reproductive rights,” Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, which led support for the amendment, told a jubilant crowd of supporters.

Dannenfelser explained in her memo that the media “provided no fact-checking on the gaping lies told by the abortion lobby,” including “claims that parental rights would be protected despite the ballot language making no distinction between adults and children in guaranteeing a right to abortion.”

Tuesday’s ballot measure was seen by many as a signal for how abortion activists across the country would attempt to codify abortion into state constitutions nationwide, and Dannenfelser pointed out that “pro-abortion forces are already organizing major ballot initiatives across more states in 2024.”

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“Pro-life and GOP forces must begin preparing for these fights now, most urgently raising the funds necessary to cut through the abortion lobby’s lies and deception, aided significantly by their allies in the media,” Dannenfelser said. “Under this threat, GOP leaders in these states must step up to aid these efforts, the same way Governor Mike DeWine and Senator JD Vance did during the final stretch in Ohio.”

Dannenfelser’s letter also touched on GOP losses in Virginia, where Democrats focused on the abortion issue in their successful push to prevent Republicans from taking control of the legislature.

“While the GOP had a strong counter to Democratic attacks on abortion — focusing on a 15-week limit at a point when babies in the womb can feel pain, with exceptions, contrasted with Democrats’ no-limit position — they spent a relatively paltry amount ($2.2 million) driving their message on TV,” Dannenfelser said. “While this is an improvement over the 2022 midterms when the GOP had no clearly defined position and was outspent 35:1 on abortion-focused advertising, it is still a significant gap that clearly made a difference in the outcome.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Dannenfelser said the GOP has to “lean in” and “define the issue,” explaining that it is “long past due for the GOP to define where it stands on the issue nationally.”

“It should not be difficult: The GOP must align itself with the national consensus that already exists, which is limiting late-term abortion when the child can feel excruciating pain,” Dannenfelser said, adding that “the GOP should contrast this stance of clarity and compassion with the Democrats, who do not support a single limit on abortion, celebrate abortion, and have long moved past the ‘pro-choice’ position.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

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