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Ohio archbishop urges no vote on abortion ballot initiative

Father of child embraces his pregnant wife

Ground Picture | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 10/02/23

Issue 1 is a "dangerous" ballot initiative that poses a "threat to human life and dignity."

The Catholic archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio, Dennis M. Schnurr, has called on Catholics to vote down a “dangerous” ballot initiative, which he called a “clear threat to human life and dignity.”

Archbishop Schnurr recorded a homily that was played at Masses throughout the archdiocese this weekend, traditionally marked as Respect Life Sunday in the Catholic Church in the United States. In a little over a month, Ohio voters will be able to decide on Issue 1, the “Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative.”

According to Ballotpedia, a yes vote would establish a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy. It also would allow the state to restrict abortion after fetal viability, except when “necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health.”

A no vote opposes amending the state’s constitution to establish the constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”

Currently, abortion is legal in Ohio for up to 21 weeks and six days of pregnancy, Ballotpedia explained. After the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022, Ohio enacted a “heartbeat” bill that bans abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy. But the law was blocked after the ACLU, ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and law firm WilmerHale filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to prevent it from going into effect. The lawsuit is still ongoing.

“The state of Ohio is at a crossroads in deciding how to protect women and the unborn,” Archbishop Schnurr, 75, said in his Respect Life Sunday homily. The November 7 ballot initiative would “enshrine the right to abort innocent life in the womb at any moment of pregnancy while harming women and families in the process,” he said. 

A no vote on Issue 1 “effectively maintains the status quo on the issue of abortion in Ohio,” Schnurr said. “It leaves it up to the legislature and court to determine how accessible or how limited abortion will be.”

Vague language

Archbishop Schnurr warned that the amendment language is “so broad and so vague that a yes vote opens up the right to abortion with no restrictions: no term restrictions, no age restrictions, no parental notification restrictions.”

“This must not be our society’s response to women facing crisis pregnancies,” the archbishop contended. “Rather, it must be more love, more accompaniment, and more resources to women in need. It should also involve a compassionate, non-judgmental path to hope and healing for those who have been affected by abortion as is offered through our Project Rachel ministries. An expectant mother can face many challenges, including lack of support from the father, financial strains, concerns about her health and pressure from family and friends. In such times, every woman should be able to depend upon a community of support both during pregnancy and after a child is born. We must also continue to engage in advocacy for access to quality healthcare, paid parental leave laws, affordable childcare options and more. A woman should never feel that she must abandon her dreams due to an unexpected pregnancy, whether she ultimately decides to raise the child herself or to place the child for adoption.”

The archbishop urged Ohio Catholics to “pray earnestly” for the defeat of Issue 1. “Please educate yourself, your family and friends about its dangers. Please vote no on Issue 1 on November the 7th. And whatever may result after this vote, our work in the vineyard does not end. Please let us continue to do all that we can to care for women, children, and families in need through our public advocacy and through the many charitable organizations designed to help.”

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