Abortion on the ballot: Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky races seen as litmus test for 2024

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Ohio is experiencing a surge in early voting driven by an abortion ballot measure that would enshrine abortions until the moment of birth. 

Voters in the Buckeye State will decide on Tuesday whether to pass legislation to amend the state constitution to expand abortion protections to the extreme.

Ohio Right to Life stated on its website that “The seriousness of this ballot initiative cannot be overstated.”

The pro-life organization said if the ballot measure passes, Ohio’s legislature would not be able to pass any future laws to protect unborn children. “The abortion issue would be ripped out of our hands permanently,” the site read.

The ballot measure would specifically ensure protections for abortion clinics and abortionists and “[a]lways allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman’s life or health.” 

Ohio Right to Life stressed that the legislation is “particularly dangerous” because it uses “intentionally broad” language. For instance, Ohio law currently requires parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion, but the bill seeks to allow abortion for “every person.”

The organization also argues that the provision that would allow treating physicians to determine whether abortion is necessary to protect a patient’s “life or health” is sufficiently vague to open the door for abortionists to “use a woman’s age or emotional well-being as a reason to perform an abortion in the 3rd trimester.” 

Ohio became the fourth state to pass laws protecting unborn children following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June 2022 that repealed federal abortion rights. Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a heartbeat bill into law in April 2019 banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs at about six weeks of pregnancy.

In December of the following year, DeWine passed a law requiring medical professionals to provide lifesaving treatment to any infant who survives an abortion attempt. The “Born Alive” law also prohibits healthcare professionals who receive taxpayer funding from working for or contracting with abortion facilities.

Chuck Todd, former moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said that Ohio’s decision on the proposed amendment will serve as a bellwether for 2024.

Todd wrote in an op-ed published by NBC News that “the most important lesson” he expects to learn from the Ohio election is “just how motivating the issue of abortion is.”

“For Democrats, abortion seems to be the lone issue that motivates voters under 40 right now,” Todd wrote, acknowledging that, “[w]ithout that issue, they might not be looking as competitive in any of these places, given the voters’ dissatisfaction with the country and the president.”


Every seat in the Old Dominion State’s General Assembly is up for election this year. The party that ends up controlling the legislature will determine whether Virginia remains the sole southern state without abortion restrictions on the books. 

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is eyeing a 15-week abortion ban if Republicans win the majority, but Democrats in the state want to codify abortions up to 24 weeks and argue that exceptions for later-term abortions should be decided by physicians rather than lawmakers.

“The campaign for control of the Virginia Legislature is essentially a referendum on those two abortion stances. And it will answer whether GOP strategists are misreading their own polling on this,” Todd wrote. 


Abortion rights will also factor into Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, which CNN referred to last week as “a critical test of how the fight over abortion rights will shape the political landscape ahead of the 2024 presidential election.”

Incumbent Andy Beshear, who refers to himself as a “pro-life Democrat,” faces challenger Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron.  Beshear vetoed a pro-life bill that would have banned most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a political gamble in the mostly conservative state.

Kentucky’s Republican majority legislature subsequently overruled the veto.  Beshear has sought to downplay party labels while touting his record on jobs and his leadership in disaster recovery, per The Washington Post.


Abortion was widely seen as a driving force in the 2022 midterm elections, to the detriment of Republicans. President Joe Biden is banking on the same post-Roe fervor that sent droves of young Democratic voters to the polls in 2022 to help him secure a second term.

Biden’s campaign manager told CNN in August that the president will make abortion rights a key focus of his reelection campaign.

Republican 2024 hopefuls have all said that they support abortion restrictions, to varying degrees.

Former President Trump received pushback from conservative corners for saying that a six-week abortion ban signed into law by rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was “too harsh.” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in June penned an op-ed in the Des Moines Register pledging to “sign the most pro-life legislation the House and Senate can put on my desk,” starting with a 15-week national abortion ban.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told NBC in May that “The idea that a Republican president could ban all abortions is not being honest with the American people,” and pushed for a “national consensus.”

Months later in September, when asked whether she would sign federal abortion restrictions if elected, the former U.N. Ambassador told Fox News that “whatever 60 votes come to, whether that’s 15 weeks, I absolutely would sign it.”