Next week, Issue 1 is on the ballot in Ohio. This proposed constitutional amendment would place legal abortion in Ohio’s state constitution.
One of the key arguments made by pro-lifers in opposition to Issue 1 is that it would jeopardize many popular pro-life protections currently in place and specifically Ohio’s pro-life parental-involvement law. Indeed, if voters approve Issue 1, pro-lifers argue, judges could strike down Ohio’s parental-consent law and minor girls would be able to obtain abortions without parental permission.
Ohio media outlets that have covered Issue 1 have made a concerted effort to downplay these concerns raised by pro-lifers. In their coverage of Issue 1’s impact on parental rights, Ohio media outlets typically interview various professors at Ohio law schools who say that pro-life concerns about parental rights are overblown. These law professors argue that Ohio’s pro-life parental-involvement law is safe regardless of what happens on Election Day.
However, a look at other states shows that the concerns of Buckeye State pro-lifers are well founded. Indeed, pro-life parental-involvement laws have been struck down in several other states where state constitutions offer far less protection to legal abortion than what Issue 1 is proposes. State supreme courts in both New Jersey and California have both struck down pro-life parental involvement laws. In each decision, the court argued that such laws violated constitutional rights to privacy. Additionally, in 2016, the Alaska supreme court struck down a pro-life parental-involvement law on the ground that it violated constitutional equal-protection provisions.
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In particular, Florida’s experience with parental-involvement laws should concern pro-lifers. In 1980, Florida voters approved a legislative referendum, Amendment 2, that placed privacy rights in the state constitution. Most of the discussion over the amendment dealt with government surveillance, including warrantless wiretaps. Abortion was simply not a salient issue during legislative debate or the campaign. However, in 1989 and then 2003, the Florida supreme court struck down pro-life parental-involvement laws, specifically citing the 1980 privacy amendment. As a result, Florida pro-lifers had to amend the state constitution by direct democracy in 2004 in order give the legislature the ability to pass a parental-involvement law
During the Issue 1 campaign, Ohio pro-lifers have shrewdly emphasized the importance of the state’s parental involvement law, which took effect in 1990. Parental-involvement laws are popular. Prior to Dobbs they were in effect in over 30 states and they almost always command majority support in various public-opinion polls. Given that, it is unsurprising that supporters of legal abortion and their allies in academia and the mainstream media have made a concerted effort to downplay pro-life concerns about Issue 1’s impact on parental rights. However, on numerous occasions, state courts have struck down parental-involvement laws. This has happened even in states where abortion was not explicitly protected by the state constitution. This shows that the concerns of Ohio pro-lifers are well founded.
LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New
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