Exclusive — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: Abortion Ballot Measure Too ‘Radical’ for Pro-Choice, Pro-Life Ohioans

FILE - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a news conference in East Palestine, Ohio, Tues
AP Photo/Matt Freed, File

Ohioans have the opportunity through election day on November 7 to vote on Issue 1, a ballot measure that would enshrine — likely irreversibly — the supposed “right” to abortion in the state constitution.

But critics of the ballot amendment are urgently warning that the measure is about much more than abortion and could be used to decimate parental rights, lead to abortion throughout pregnancy, and even allow minors to pursue sex-change procedures. Among the voices sounding the alarm is Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who has gone out of his way to dissuade his constituents from casting a “yes” vote for the amendment. 

“Whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, this amendment goes much, much too far,” DeWine told Breitbart News during a phone interview on Friday.

DeWine’s chief concern about the amendment is its broad language and how it could be used to overhaul abortion laws and parental consent laws in the state — far past what pro-abortion groups pushing the measure are claiming.

“When you look at the way the constitutional amendment is written, it is written in very broad language in regards to the parental rights, parental consent,” he said. “The language in the amendment talks about [abortion] being an ‘individual’s’ right — they could have said ‘woman,’ which would’ve denoted an adult, but they purposely did not do that. They used the term ‘individual,’ which certainly can include a minor.”

“[Issue 1] also says the state cannot directly or indirectly interfere with an abortion. So that’s very, very broad language. I think the net result is going to be a very permissive abortion statute that allows abortion right up until the time of birth,” he added. 

DeWine further pointed to the amendment’s exception for the “health” of the mother, which is an “extremely broad exception.” 

“We know that the United States Supreme Court, in previous abortion decisions, has defined that extremely broadly,” he said. “ [And under the amendment] that determination would be made by the person performing the abortion with no review. So as a practical matter, it’s not an exception that really matters. You could have an abortion at any point up until birth.” 


DeWine and Ohio first lady Fran DeWine are so opposed to the amendment that, for the first time ever, they agreed to appear in a political advertisement for an issue warning against the amendment. 

“This is the first statewide ad that my wife Fran and I have ever done for an issue,” he said. “We just feel very strongly that this proposed constitutional amendment is a radical amendment and goes much, much too far — it would put Ohio in the category of some of the most liberal states.”

DeWine emphasized that if the measure passes, it would supersede past and future laws passed by the state legislature because it is a constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment is also extremely difficult to undo and can only be reversed with another constitutional amendment, he said.

It is a constitutional amendment, so it trumps all the laws, and it trumps any new law that might be written by the state legislature. We have had a number of constitutional amendments that have been approved by voters over the years. I’m not aware of any that have ever been actually overturned,” he said. “You would have to have a vote of the people, and so it’s just very unlikely that would occur. We would be stuck with this constitutional amendment forever.”

“[Issue 1] would override several statutes that we have. A number of years ago, we outlawed partial birth abortion. Martin Haskell, a doctor in Ohio, came up with this technique and was using it in Ohio, where the baby is partially delivered and then killed, and then the rest of the baby is delivered. This was done in Ohio until we were able to pass a law outlawing it — [Issue 1] would override that law,” he continued. “For a number of years, we’ve had a law on the books that requires parents to consent before a minor is able to have an abortion … It would also override our parental consent law. “

Left-wing fact-checkers have asserted that the amendment would not impact parental rights, partial-birth abortions, or eventually allow minors to pursue sex change drugs and procedures without parental consent. In a televised debate on the amendment, pro-abortion activist Desiree Tims declined to clarify the broad language of the measure, instead repeatedly claiming that Issue 1 is simply about “removing politicians” from reproductive decisions and restoring Roe v. WadeBut when local media questioned the ACLU of Ohio about whether the language of the measure would undo parental consent and notification laws, the organization vaguely indicated that those laws would not stand if the amendment passes.

“When you pass a constitutional amendment, it doesn’t just automatically erase everything and start over. But it would mean that laws that conflict with it cannot be enforced, should not be enforced,” said Jessie Hill, an attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.

DeWine said abortion activists are “soft-pedaling” the amendment by ignoring or downplaying questions around the language of the measure. 

“I think they’re misleading people when they [deny the amendment will undermine parental rights and lead to late-term abortions]. We’ve consulted with constitutional scholars who have [looked at the language]. And you don’t even need to be a constitutional scholar. Just look at the very expansive language,” he said. 

“I also think they are certainly misleading people when they say [the measure] would just put us back to where we were, prior to the overturning of Roe, because it really takes us back much, much further than that,” he added. 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost published his own legal analysis of Issue 1 and found that while the language makes no mention of parental consent laws, “the parental-consent statute would certainly be challenged on the basis that Issue 1 gives abortion rights to any pregnant ‘individual,’ not just to a ‘woman.”’ He also said the regulation of post-viability abortions would be “technically possible but would be ineffective” and said the use of the broad term “reproductive decisions” leaves  “outcomes uncertain” around transgender drugs and procedures for minors. Yost further said the amendment would overturn laws banning partial-birth abortions in the state. 

The ACLU of Ohio is responsible for crafting the broad original language of the abortion amendment, along with other groups such as Planned Parenthood. The amendment would “establish in the Constitution of the State of Ohio an individual right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion.”

Buttons in support of Issue 1 sit on display at a rally held by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Joe Maiorana)

The ballot measure, put forward by Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, a coalition comprised of far-left groups such as URGE, ACLU of Ohio, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, would also:

  • Create legal protections for any person or entity that assists a person with receiving reproductive medical treatment, including but. Not limited to abortion; 
  • Prohibit the State from directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, or prohibiting abortion before an unborn child is determined to be viable, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means; 
  • Grants a pregnant woman’s treating physician the authority to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether an unborn child is viable; 
  • Only allow the State to prohibit an abortion after an unborn child is determined by a pregnant woman’s treating physician to be viable and only id the physician does not consider the abortion necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health; and 
  • Always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability, if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health. 

Pro-abortion groups pushing the amendment have dumped significant sums into framing a “yes” vote on Issue 1 as a vote for “freedom,” and have invoked conservative imagery, opposition to government overreach, and mentions of “faith” and family” to convince Ohioans to support the killing of the unborn. Pro-abortion groups successfully employed a similar strategy in the 2022 midterms, when abortion was on the ballot in states like Kansas and Michigan

DeWine noted that much of the funding supporting the pro-abortion side has come from outside of the state. Indeed, campaign filings from Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights shows they have brought in nearly $29 million from donors since Sept. 8, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, pro-life groups rallying against the measure have raised just under $10 million in the same period.

Signs for and against a proposed constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in Ohio stand in front of the Greene County Board of Elections in Xenia, Ohio, Oct. 11, 2023, the first day of in-person voting. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth)

The largest donations backing the abortion amendment since Sept. 8 “came from out-of-state groups,” including $5.3 million from Arabella Advisors’ Sixteen Thirty Fund, a D.C.-based dark money group, the report states. The “yes” campaign also received $3.5 million from the New-York-based Open Society Policy Center, which is associated with billionaire left-wing Democrat donor George Soros. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), also based in New York, gave the pro-abortion coalition $2 million, according to the report.

“Some of this money is coming in from George Soros. Some is coming in from the Democrat Governor of Illinois — he wrote a big check. So there’s a lot of outside the state money that is coming in,” DeWine said. “They are not Ohioans. They’re not voting. They don’t live in Ohio. But they are trying to influence our election with a lot of money dumped in here.”

Even so, DeWine said he is optimistic overall that Ohioans will reject that extreme amendment. 

Our goal is to get our message across and this race is tightening — our latest poll is very, very close. We think that we have a very good chance of defeating it,” he said. “It just does not fit where Ohioans are. I mean, we are split as a state about how people feel about abortion, but even people who are pro-choice, the vast majority of people who pro-choice do not think we should allow abortions [all throughout] pregnancy.” 

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


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