Ohio Abortion Amendment Is a Wake-up Call
Last Tuesday, Ohio voters voted 57 to 43 percent to add a “right” to abortion to the state Constitution. What this means is that in Ohio abortion is now permitted without restriction up to the point of viability.
Tragically, the passage of this amendment makes it all but certain that Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban—signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) in 2019—will not go into effect. At the time of this most recent vote, the law had been tied up in the courts. But given the repeal of Roe last year, it had a good chance of withstanding judicial scrutiny. Alas, those children that would have been protected by this law are now at the mercy of the abortionists.
Naturally, our “Catholic” president quickly responded to this horrific vote with a statement praising legal abortion. “Tonight,” stated President Biden, “Americans once again voted to protect their fundamental freedoms – and democracy won. In Ohio, voters protected access to reproductive health in their state constitution.”
Not a Trend. A Wakeup Call.
While the outcome of the Ohio vote was not entirely unexpected, there is no question that it is a major blow. Real children will die because of it. Many of them. That is the stark reality. Those are the stakes involved in this fight.
Some pro-life activists had hoped that the pro-life side would win. After all, in 2020, Donald Trump won Ohio with 53.18% of the vote. In general, Trump voters are far more likely to be pro-life than Biden voters. However, for whatever reason, that 53% of voters did not show up to the polls to vote for life, when the right to life of the preborn child was explicitly on the ballot. That is beyond disappointing.
Many media commentators are leaping to the conclusion that this Ohio vote shows that abortion is a losing issue for Republican politicians. They argue that this latest vote is just the last in a series of defeats for the pro-life cause at the ballot box, which “proves” that the American people have no appetite for abortion bans. If the GOP wishes to win moving forward, they are saying, it must focus on other, more “popular” issues.
This is rubbish. In the first place, it’s clear that the pro-abortion movement is committing enormous resources to creating this impression of a landslide movement in their favor. That is, they are trying to “manufacture consensus” to try to discourage the pro-life cause and reverse the momentum.
In the wake of this vote, Ohio pro-lifers pointed out that they were massively outspent. As the pro-life group Protect Women Ohio stated after the vote:
We know that Issue 1 does not represent Ohio values. It took $35 million in out-of-state funding and ads filled with fear and deceit to push through the most radical abortion agenda in the country. An agenda that will cement late-term abortion in our Constitution, strip parents of their rights, and wipe out health and safety protections for women. This is not the Ohio way, and we are united in our fight against these extreme policies.
Ultimately, the pro-life side was outspent by $12 million during the campaign, with a lot of that money flowing in from out-of-state from well-funded pro-abortion activist groups funded by billionaires.
Furthermore, we know from experience that in a democracy there is often a “pendulum effect.” That is, when one side of the political spectrum wins a significant victory, the other side of the issue is often galvanized to renewed effort. Meanwhile, the side that just won becomes complacent, thinking that they no longer have to work as hard to maintain their momentum.
Pro-lifers worked to overturn Roe for fifty years. The death of Roe last year is one of the most significant victories in the history of the pro-life movement. In a way, it’s hardly surprising that the pro-abortion side is now hitting the ground running. Many pro-abortion activists have woken up to the fact that their precious “right to abortion” is actually being threatened in many states. In many, in fact, it is gone, and has been replaced with the right to life of our preborn brothers and sisters.
However, this latest loss at the ballot box needs to be a wakeup call for us. Pro-lifers who’ve been in the fight for long enough always knew that overturning Roe was just the beginning of the fight to end abortion in America: a hugely important step, but hardly the end. But with pro-abortion activists now outraged at our recent successes, we need to step up our game to meet and outmatch their level of determination and effort.
If any of us have given into complacency, assuming that with Roe gone it would be smooth sailing, now is the time to shake off our slumber, roll up our sleeves, and get to work! This fight will never be over, so long as we live. There is no resting on our laurels. There is just the daily effort to carry out God’s will, and fight to protect the vulnerable.
Ohio Bishops Urge Hope, Action
The Catholic Church in Ohio played a significant role in the fight to oppose Issue 1. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Catholic Church spent at least $1.7 million in supporting the pro-life fight.
In a statement after the vote, the Ohio bishops expressed their dismay at the result, and yet urged the pro-life faithful not to lose heart.
“Today is a tragic day for women, children, and families in Ohio,” the bishops said once the results of the vote were clear. “We mourn that the dignity of human life remains concealed by the duplicity of a culture of death.”
And yet, they added, “Though this is a day of sorrow, we are never without hope. St. Paul tells us that it is in hope that we were saved and, ‘if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.’”
The bishops vowed that despite the setback, the Catholic Church in Ohio would continue to defend preborn children, and to advocate for the family and women.
“As we pray for the conversion of minds and hearts to the gospel of life, we recommit ourselves to defending children in the womb and supporting women in need,” they wrote. “The Catholic Church and faithful will never grow weary in our mission to help women and families flourish through ministries such as Walking with Moms in Need and other local organizations that provide material and spiritual support and through advocacy with policymakers.”
The bishops thanked all those pro-life activists who had poured their money, time and prayers into defending the most vulnerable among us. “Your sacrifices prove that the Church will never abandon her mission to support human life,” they said. “We will persevere in this mission until every preborn child is protected, every pregnant woman is supported, and every human life receives respect, dignity, and justice.”
The bishops’ message of determination, hope, and recommitment to the cause is precisely what is needed at this dark moment.
The Victory Is Ours
However, even as we dust ourselves off, and recommit ourselves to focused, tireless effort in defense of the preborn, we should also take a moment to remind ourselves that all the taunting of the pro-abortion media is not even grounded in fact.
As noted above, pro-abortion activists and media are desperately attempting to portray the situation as one of an “inevitable” victory for pro-abortion forces. They wish to convince us that the tide has definitively turned against the pro-lifers. They want to take the heart out of us.
It is true that there have been some real losses in recent months. And yet, as pro-life analyst Michael New notes in National Review, there is every reason to believe that the momentum is solidly on the pro-life side. Don’t forget: Roe was the law of the land for fifty years! And now it’s gone. Rejoice in that fact!
No intelligent pro-lifer ever thought that the moment Roe was gone, that abortion would end in America, or that the fight would be over. For this reason, it’s appalling to read one author at the National Catholic Reporter arguing that the takeaway lesson from the latest Ohio defeat is that pro-lifers should “abandon” the political sphere. “Forget about changing the laws. Work on changing hearts,” he writes.
A Ludicrous False Dichotomy
What defeatist nonsense. Yes, of course we must change hearts! That’s why the pro-life movement has poured its heart and soul into founding educational organizations, and huge numbers of crisis pregnancy centers to reach the hearts of at-risk mothers. And yet, the idea that we must choose between changing hearts and laws is founded upon a ludicrous false dichotomy.
It’s not a choice between changing hearts and changing laws. After all, one of the key ways to change hearts is to change laws. Laws teach and affirm a society’s values. For fifty years, our society’s values, the hearts and minds of our citizens, were shaped by the unjust legal framework of Roe. That has all changed.
Furthermore, as New points out, thanks to the overturning of Roe, we have seen significant, concrete progress. Fourteen states now have laws banning all abortions. And after Roe was repealed, another seven states passed strong pro-life laws that protect a significant portion of preborn children. None of this would have been possible without the repeal of Roe.
In response to the massive victory of repealing Roe, we can expect a backlash. But instead of giving in to discouragement, we must use the ferocity of that backlash to galvanize us to renewed effort, not to throw up our hands and bemoan the fact that we can “never” win at the ballot box. Yes, we must continue to educate hearts and minds, and we must continue to pass laws that have the effect of saving real children, today.
Roe had to go. It was arguably the most egregious U.S. Supreme Court decision in the history of the United States. It was fundamentally, deeply unjust. It codified the systemic discrimination against the most innocent and weakest amongst us. The repeal of Roe was a magnificent victory. Do not for a minute listen to the taunting and jeers of pro-abortion journalists and activists who wish to discourage us with tendentious arguments suggesting that repealing Roe has somehow made things worse.
Now is not the time for discouragement. Now is the time for renewed effort. For prayer. For hope. After all, the victory is God’s, not ours. We place all our hope in Him, and we go to work as the happy warriors who rest confident in the knowledge that their Lord is the Lord of all, with the power to turn the tide in an instant.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.