Pro-Life Cause Suffers Losses in Ohio and Other States in 2023 Elections
The pro-life cause suffered major setbacks in the 2023 off-year election, as voters in Ohio adopted a vaguely-worded constitutional amendment creating a “right” to abortion until birth and other “reproductive decisions.” Ohioans also legalized recreational marijuana, while other national bellwether states defeated a rising pro-life candidate for governor of Kentucky, elected a pro-abortion Supreme Court justice in Pennsylvania, and handed full control of Virginia’s state legislature to Democrats.
Ohio voters adopted Issue 1, which creates a constitutional right to abortion, by a 57% to 43% vote, according to figures provided by the Secretary of State. The amendment states: “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to” abortion, with a broad exception for the mother’s “health.” Issue 1 also bars the state from infringing on these rights “directly or indirectly.” Pro-life proponents Protect Women Ohio and the Center for Christian Virtue pointed out the term “individual” and “reproductive decisions” could erase parental rights and invent a constitutional “right” for minors to have transgender surgeries without parental consent.
“Our hearts are broken tonight not because we lost an election, but because Ohio families, women, and children will bear the brunt of this vote,” said Protect Women Ohio in a statement emailed to The Washington Stand. “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,” said the group.
Pro-life Ohioans found themselves massively outspent by the abortion industry. The coalition of abortion industry lobbyists and far-left organizations sponsoring Issue 1, Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, brought in $28 million since August, with the largest single contribution being $3.5 million from the Open Society Policy Center, founded by George Soros. Three groups managed by the left-wing dark-money group Arabella Advisors also gave a combined $4 million to support Issue 1. The coalition had worked together with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU on previous efforts to support pro-abortion state ballot initiatives in Kansas, Michigan, and five other states.
Pro-abortion activists outspent pro-life advocates by at least $6.5 million on TV and online ads alone, not including the last week of the election. The abortion industry’s “pervasive lie that women will die without Issue 1 was propped up by massive ad spending, funded by George Soros and a left-wing media machine which operated like Planned Parenthood’s PR department,” noted SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser in an emailed statement.
Also on Tuesday night, Ohioans adopted Issue 2 — which legalized the possession, use, and commercial sale of recreational marijuana to anyone 21 or older — by a nearly identical 57% to 43% margin. Studies have shown that marijuana use creates a panoply of physical, mental, emotional, and social harms — including increasing the chances of developing psychosis. Daily marijuana use triples users’ odds of suffering from suicidal thoughts. Additionally, a new study released Monday revealed that daily marijuana use raises the risk of heart failure by 34%. Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R) predicted a “mental health crisis” if Issue 2 passed and hinted that he may attempt to amend it legislatively.
Issue 2’s supporters have spent $5.2 million — with the largest donations coming from the George Soros-funded Marijuana Policy Project and two companies that hope to sell THC in the Buckeye State: Curaleaf and FarmaceuticalRx. Meanwhile, opponents have spent just $230,200. The largest donor was the Ohio Manufacturers Association, which has seen how recreational marijuana use destroys employees’ work ethic and productivity.
Despite the setback, people of faith have had significant, David vs. Goliath victories in other states. Last November, a coalition of faith leaders and law enforcement officials came together to defeat legalizing marijuana in three states: North and South Dakota and Arkansas.
In other races:
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) defeated Republican Daniel Cameron, a charismatic, pro-life, black Republican leader endorsed by President Donald Trump, 53% to 47%. Beshear, who outspent Cameron two-to-one, claimed he overcame overwhelming special interests who ran “ads full of hate and division.”
Beshear — whose father, Steve, became the first governor in state history to serve two consecutive terms — vetoed a bill to protect Kentucky’s children from transgender surgeries, respect girls’ privacy in intimate facilities, and enshrine parental rights over their children’s gender identity and sex education curriculum. (The Republican-controlled legislature overrode his veto.) The younger Beshear had also refused to defend pro-life laws in court as governor and, before his election, as attorney general. Cameron reversed Beshear’s intransigence when the Republican became attorney general. Republicans won the other two statewide races on the ballot.
In Virginia, Democrats won control of the state legislature. Republicans picked up one seat in the Virginia state Senate in an overwhelmingly blue state, although they lost two seats in the House of Delegates. As of this time, the Democrats control the state Senate by a 21-17 margin, and the House by 51-47; each chamber had two seats undecided as of this writing. The outcome likely blunted further talk of Governor Glenn Youngkin entering the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.
In a much-watched race, pro-life Republican David Owen narrowly defeated Susanna Gibson — an abortion-supporting Democrat who had apparently raised money for her campaign by posting pornographic videos on OnlyFans — to represent Virginia’s 57th district in the House of Delegates, 51% to 48%. Gibson had accused her opponents of leaking the explicit videos, which she posted on a public website, and attempted to make abortion the center of her unsuccessful campaign.
In the race for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Democrat Daniel McCaffery beat Republican Carolyn Carluccio by six points (53% to 47%) after painting the moderate Republican opponent as an abortion extremist. Planned Parenthood poured $4 million into McCaffery’s coffers.
In a bright spot for the pro-life movement, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) defeated Brandon Presley, a second cousin of Tupelo’s favorite son, Elvis Presley. Tate bested Presley, who ran as a pro-life conservative, 52% to 47% (with 1% for independent Gwendolyn Gray). “We all now know what it means in a state like Mississippi when you stand up to the national liberals and when you stand up to Joe Biden,” said Reeves in his victory speech.
Seasoned politicians say the connecting tissue in each of these successful races is fundraising. “The big story isn’t abortion so much as it is money,” said former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R). The bottom line is that the Democratic Party is spending money on pro-abortion messaging, and demonizing pro-life politicians, while the “GOP is not matching the cash,” said Live Action founder Lila Rose. “If we want to win, the above must change.”
Candidates must also commit to discussing abortion — because the Democratic Party is. “Defending life is a winning issue, but only if you commit to the cause,” said Students for Life Action’s Kristan Hawkins in a statement emailed to The Washington Stand. Her comments echo those of RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who has implored Republican candidates to define their opponents’ extreme position on abortion as unpopular and out-of-touch.
Regardless of the outcome, pro-life and pro-family organizations promised to work harder before the presidential election next November 5. “We persevered for 50 years to overturn Roe v. Wade. Ours is a movement that has always endured, and always will. Tomorrow, the work starts again as we fight to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Protect Women Ohio. “We are just getting started.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.