Voters cast their ballots at Mozelle Hall, a polling location at the Ashland County Fairgrounds, on Nov. 7, 2023.

COLUMBUS — Twenty-seven Republican members of the Ohio House of Representatives signed a statement promising to “do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed” in response to the passage of State Issue 1 on Tuesday night. 

State representatives for Ashland (Rep. Melanie Miller), Knox (Rep. Darrell Kick) and Richland (Rep. Marilyn John) counties signed onto the statement.

The letter was released on Wednesday. 

Melanie Miller, who represents Ashland County, was also quoted in another statement on the Ohio House of Representatives website that said Ohio legislators “will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative.”

Issue 1 created an amendment to the state constitution granting individuals the right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions, including abortion. 

Final, unofficial election results from the Secretary of State’s office show the issue passed by a margin of 56.62% to 43.38%. Ashland, Knox and Richland counties all bucked the statewide results, with voters in each county disapproving of the ballot measure. 

The constitutional amendment goes into effect 30 days after the election.

“The vague, intentionally deceptive language of Issue 1 does not clarify the issues of life, parental consent, informed consent, or viability including Partial Birth Abortion, but rather introduces more confusion. This initiative failed to mention a single, specific law,” part of the lawmakers’ Nov. 8 statement read. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday that the state’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine pushed against the statement. 

“In this country, we accept the results of elections. We certainly accept the results of Issue 1 in Ohio as well as Issue 2,” DeWine said. 

Miller said DeWine is right: Voters made their voices heard on Issue 1.

She appreciated the governor’s work on Issue 1 (DeWine appeared in commercials and spoke out against the measure), but said she thinks bigger cities in the state had an outsized voice in the election.

Their votes, she said, overruled rural areas like Ashland County. 

“This is not over,” she said in an interview with Ashland Source on Nov. 9. “We will continue to work tirelessly to find ways to support both men and women.”

Signing on

Marilyn John represents House District 76, serving all of Richland County. John said the statement “says it all.” Miller, who also serves as executive director of the Ashland Pregnancy Care Center, agreed. 

“For a lot of us, the life issue is one we’re very passionate about,” Miller said.

In John’s view, Issue 1’s passage leaves two big questions to grapple with: the role of parental consent, and what is covered in the phrase “reproductive rights.”

Those are questions John and Miller both said voters brought to them throughout the election cycle, too.

“I’m a mom,” John said. “I have a daughter. [Abortion] is a significant decision to make, whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice. I would want to be there with my child.”

Arguments against Issue 1 regarding parental consent came from the amendment’s language. 

It provides “every individual” the right to make and carry out reproductive decisions. It bans the state from interfering, except by use of “the least restrictive means to advance the individual’s health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.” 

The amendment outlines that protected reproductive rights decisions include, but are not limited to, “contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.” 

Ohio has an existing parental notification and consent law. If a patient is a minor, informed consent must be obtained from a parent or guardian before a surgical procedure, according to state law.

The amendment’s passage does not overturn that law, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

What will be done?

The representatives’ statement promised they’d “do everything in [their] power to prevent [their] laws from being removed.” 

Both John and Miller said they’re uncertain of specific actions the representatives will be taking at this point. 

Miller said she’s waiting for the dust to settle. But, she thinks both legislation and advocacy will be important once she has a clear picture of how the amendment may impact Ohio. 

For now, she plans to research responses in other states that have passed similar laws. Miller specifically pointed to Michigan. Voters there also passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to reproductive care, including abortion, last week. 

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists in Michigan filed lawsuits against state officials in response to the election results, according to reporting from Newsweek.

John said legislation is the main action the Ohio legislature would be able to take. She added she hasn’t drafted any bills regarding Issue 1. She said she’s uncertain if other members had as of Nov. 9.

“I truly believe this issue is a heart issue,” Miller said. “We can pass all the legislation that we want to, but unless we change hearts and minds, that’s all we’re doing.”

Complicating the narrative

John said she hopes people who voted in favor of Issue 1 recognize that even if the law allows for abortion access, those decisions are still significant. 

“I would encourage individuals who are faced with unexpected or unwanted pregnancies to think on it and consult with their doctors and families about all their options,” John said. 

Miller said the bottom line for her is that she feels a call to fight for “the unborn.” She thinks there are options for pregnant women aside from abortion. She listed foster care and adoption as examples. 

“I respect people’s decision for why they chose what they chose, and I hope they respect my choice to stand for life,” Miller said.

Miller said as the legislature determines its next steps, she thinks there’s common ground to be found. She said her main concern is ensuring women have successful pregnancies.

“Women need support. Women need love,” Miller said.

Ashland Source reached out to Rep. Darrell Kick, who represents voters in Knox County, via email and phone for comment on this story. It did not receive a response from Rep. Kick by the time of publication.

Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...