DeWine hints at what could be his next move in the fight over abortion in Ohio
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) has been suggesting state lawmakers revisit the state's existing abortion ban to clarify it. That law — which is still on the books but on hold by courts — bans abortion at the point fetal cardiac electronic activity can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
A Hamilton County court ruled that law was vague and put it on hold last fall. So right now in Ohio, abortions are available up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy.
DeWine staunchly opposes abortion and supports the more restrictive ban commonly known as the "heartbeat law." But he says it needs to hold up to court review — possibly even before November, when Ohioans are set to vote on an amendment that would enshrine abortion rights into Ohio's constitution.
August election’s role
Ohioans are going to the polls now and mailing in ballots for an Aug. 8 election that will decide whether to change the constitution to make it tougher to pass future constitutional amendments. Right now, constitutional amendments in Ohio pass by a 50% plus one margin. But the change being sought would increase that threshold to 60%. And if Issue 1 passes, that 60% threshold would be in place for the amendment that will be on the November ballot. Since most polls show support for legal abortion is somewhere over 50% but under 60%, many Issue 1 supporters have said it is needed to block November’s abortion amendment.
Issue 1 would also make it tougher to pass citizen-led amendments by requiring petition signatures from 88 counties instead of the current 44. And it would take away the "cure period,” the 10-day window after petitions are submitted when petitioners can gather more signatures if needed. Those petition-gathering changes will not affect the abortion amendment on the November ballot because it has already gone through that process.
DeWine said he doesn't want to talk about what he'll do if Issue 1 fails. And he doesn't want to answer questions about what specific changes he wants lawmakers to seek. When asked by reporters whether he will ask legislators to pursue those changes if Issue 1 fails in August, DeWine wouldn't elaborate.
“Look, I think the focus right now is on the August election. And I think once that is over with, then the focus will start to be on the November election and I will have more to say at that point," he said.
On legalizing marijuana
DeWine isn't talking about another possible issue to go before voters this fall: an initiated statute that, if passed, would legalize marijuana use in Ohio for adults 21 and over. That statute fell 679 signatures short of being certified earlier this week. But backers of it are circulating more petitions during the 10-day cure period. It is possible that measure — which is a law and not a constitutional amendment — could still be on the November ballot, after all.
DeWine opposed a proposed constitutional amendment in 2015 to legalize marijuana. And he has not been supportive of legislation that would legalize cannibas either.
“I think the lessons we learn from states that have totally taken off any limitations on marijuana, I think those are pretty, pretty good lessons,” DeWine said.
DeWine didn't expound on those comments. He said talk about a possible marijuana ballot issue on the November ballot is "about four turns down the road."
DeWine made his comments to reporters at the opening of the 2023 Ohio State Fair.