Ohio Ballot Measure Would Legalize Abortion Up to Birth, Force People to Fund Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 20, 2023   |   6:00PM   |   Columbus, Ohio

Carrie Campbell Severino, Frank Scaturro, and Ed Sitters all have some incisive criticisms about the proposed ballot proposition that would place abortion rights in Ohio’s state constitution. Severino, Scaturro, and Sitter are all correct that this constitutional amendment would effectively legalize abortion on demand in Ohio for all nine months.

Additionally, the authors are correct that this amendment might well strike down Ohio’s pro-life parental-consent law.

One aspect of the proposal that deserves greater attention, however, is that this constitutional amendment would likely require Ohio’s Medicaid program to pay for elective abortions.

Subsection B of the proposed amendment says that the state shall not directly or indirectly “burden,” “penalize” or “discriminate” against abortion rights. A judge could certainly rule that Ohio’s policy preventing the state Medicaid program from covering elective abortions either burdens, penalizes, or discriminates against Ohio Medicaid recipients seeking abortions. It should be noted that in Alaska, the state constitution recognizes abortion as a fundamental right.

A 2001 judicial ruling required Alaska’s Medicaid program to pay for elective abortions. Similarly, in Minnesota, the state supreme court has recognized that multiple provisions in the Minnesota constitution protect abortion as a privacy right more broadly than does the U.S. Constitution. A 1995 court ruling required Minnesota’s Medicaid program to cover elective abortions.

Get the latest pro-life news and information on Twitter.

If Ohio’s Medicaid program were required to pay for elective abortions, this would have a devastating impact. A substantial body of political science, economics, and public-health research clearly demonstrates that abortion rates increase whenever state Medicaid programs cover elective abortions. In recent years, abortion rates in Illinois and Maine increased after their respective Medicaid programs started covering elective abortions. My 2020 Charlotte Lozier Institute study on the impact of the Hyde amendment found that policies preventing Ohio’s Medicaid program from paying for elective abortions save approximately 3,300 lives every year.

Furthermore, in states whose Medicaid programs cover all elective abortions, approximately 40 percent of abortions are paid for by Medicaid. In some states this figure is even higher. If this amendment passes, then, Ohio’s Medicaid program would likely fund over 9,000 abortions every year. This would represent a tax increase of over $4 million to already overburdened Ohio taxpayers.

In the past, pro-lifers against ballot propositions that constitutionalized abortion rights have argued that they would legalize late-term abortions. Another common argument put forth by pro-lifers is that it such amendments would make it difficult to enact commonsense regulations of abortion facilities. However, framing this Ohio ballot proposition as an abortion tax increase might be a successful strategy politically. Ohio governor Mike DeWine signed a gasoline-tax increase of 10.5 cents in 2019 and has recently proposed increasing the tax on sports betting in the state. It is very unlikely that hardworking Ohio taxpayers want to pay even more in taxes to fund elective abortions.

LifeNews Note: Michael New is a research associate at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is a former professor at Ave maria University and University of Michigan, Dearborn.