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Issue 1, an Ohio ballot measure, would codify abortion access in the state’s constitution. It would allow for abortion bans after a fetus is viable, but require exceptions for the mother’s life and health — a standard similar to Roe v. Wade.
"Financial reasons" are not included as an exception in the amendment, but anti-abortion groups say the term "health" could be interpreted to include finances.
Existing legal precedent shows examples of the court widening the definition of "health" beyond just physical, to mental and emotional health, but PolitiFact found no examples of a court including "financial reasons" within its definition.
Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion campaigns are spending millions in Ohio to persuade voters on Issue 1, a Nov. 7 ballot measure that could dictate abortion access’s future in the Buckeye State.
If passed, Issue 1 would amend the Ohio Constitution and enshrine the right to "make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions," including decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, pregnancy and abortion.
But in an ad shared on Facebook, the opposition campaign argued the measure permits abortion later in pregnancy for reasons having to do with a woman’s finances.
"Legal experts say Issue 1 allows for abortion after viability for mental, emotional and even financial reasons, not just to protect the life of the mother," said a woman featured in the ad from Protect Women Ohio, a coalition of anti-abortion groups that oppose the amendment. "I’m pro-choice, but Issue 1 goes too far."
The ad’s video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
We found the ad’s claim about an exception for finances goes too far. The proposed amendment says nothing about financial considerations being used to justify abortions later in pregnancy — what anti-abortion groups often call "late-term" abortions.
Rather, the measure reiterates a standard similar to that applied under Roe v. Wade, the now-overturned 1973 Supreme Court decision that said abortion access was federally protected: that laws restricting abortion include exceptions for the mother’s "life or health."
Legal experts told PolitiFact that the argument that "financial reasons" would be considered a part of "health" is a stretch and goes beyond existing case law.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, Ohio’s six-week abortion ban temporarily took effect before a judge paused it. The ban is pending review by the state’s Supreme Court.
Issue 1 would re-establish a near-identical standard to what existed under Roe, that "abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability" — the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb — except if "in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient’s life or health."
The ballot measure does not mention finances.
Protect Women Ohio argues that the term "health," left undefined, is open to a broad interpretation. The group cited two 1970s Supreme Court cases that addressed whether the term "health" in abortion laws was "unconstitutionally vague."
In both cases, the court ruled it was not vague. But along with a third opinion from 1995, the rulings described "health" more expansively.
"Medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient," 1973’s Doe v. Bolton decision says. "All these factors may relate to health. This allows the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment."
This ruling "effectively made abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy for almost any reason," said Amy Natoce, press secretary for Protect Women Ohio. "Certainly finances are ‘relevant to the wellbeing of the patient,’ and you could argue they fall under the ‘familial health’ exception."
Mary Ziegler, an abortion historian and law professor at University of California, Davis, told us anti-abortion groups have long argued about health exceptions for abortion, saying the term is too broad and essentially means a person can have the procedure for any reason.
But this interpretation differs from how most people, including physicians, have understood the term, she said.
Jessie Hill, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who is involved in litigation against Ohio’s abortion restrictions, said the Doe v. Bolton ruling comprises factors that may be involved in medical judgment, but doesn’t define "health."
The case "simply held that a Georgia statute was not unconstitutionally vague," Capital University constitutional law professor Dan Kobil said. "It did not hold that the Roe standard required such a broad definition," citing a supporting opinion from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Post-viability abortions are rare and are therefore rarely litigated, Hill said.
The legal experts we spoke with agreed that previous case law could be used to argue that "health" goes beyond the physical and into mental and emotional risks, but finances? That would be a challenging legal argument.
"I cannot imagine a court taking the term health and trying to distort it into an economic consideration," Kobil said.
An ad from Protect Women Ohio claims that Issue 1 would allow for post-viability abortions for "financial reasons."
The proposed constitutional amendment does not mention a post-viability abortion exception for financial reasons. And experts say existing legal precedent doesn’t support such an exception.
The law would allow abortion restrictions later in pregnancy, as long as there were exceptions for the "life" and "health" of the mother.
"Health" has been subject to more broad interpretations by the court than just physical health, but PolitiFact found no evidence that finances have been included in that broader understanding and experts said they find no clear precedent for that.
We rate this claim False.
PolitiFact Reporter Samantha Putterman contributed to this report.
Interview with Gabriel Mann, Communications Director for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, Nov. 2, 2023
Email interview with Amy Natoce, Press Secretary for Protect Women Ohio, Nov. 2, 2023
Interview with Jessie Hill, law professor at Case Western Reserve University, Nov. 2, 2023
Interview with Dan Kobil, constitutional law professor at Capital University, Nov. 2, 2023
Interview with Mary Ziegler, an abortion historian and law professor at University of California, Davis, Nov. 3, 2023
The Associated Press, "Misinformation is rampant ahead of Ohio’s vote on abortion rights," Nov. 2, 2023
The 19th, "Money pours into Ohio in final push on Issue 1 abortion ballot measure," Nov. 2, 2023
Ohio Secretary of State, "The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety," accessed Nov. 2, 2023
Facebook Post, Oct. 30, 2023
Protect Women Ohio, "Home page," accessed Nov. 2, 2023
Protect Women Ohio, "Issue 1," accessed Nov. 2, 2023
Justia, "Roe v. Wade :: 410 U.S. 113 (1973)," 1973
NPR, "Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ending right to abortion upheld for decades," June 24, 2022
The Columbus Dispatch, "Supreme Court Dobbs decision: Ohio's six-week abortion ban takes effect," June 24, 2022
Ohio Capital Journal, "Abortion ban blocked indefinitely by Hamilton County judge," Oct. 10, 2022
The Associated Press, "Judge blocks restrictive Ohio abortion law as suit proceeds," Oct. 7, 2022
Justia, "Doe v. Bolton :: 410 U.S. 179 (1973)," 1973
Justia, "United States v. Vuitch :: 402 U.S. 62 (1971)," 1971
Case Western Reserve University, "Jessie Hill," accessed Nov. 3, 2023
Cornell Law, "Voinovich v. Women's Professional Medical Corporation, 523 U.S. 1036 (1998)," 1998
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2020 | MMWR," November 25, 2022
Ohio Department of Health, "Induced Abortions in Ohio," Sept. 2021
KFF, "Abortions Later in Pregnancy," Dec. 5, 2019
National Review, "Ohio’s Disastrous Abortion Ballot Proposal," March 13, 2023
The Toledo Blade, "Saturday Essay: Issue 1 is not where Ohio is," Oct. 28, 2023
Notre Dame Law Review, "Post-Viability Abortion Bans and the Limits of the Health Exception," Nov. 1, 2004
Ohio Attorney General, "Issue 1 on the November 2023 Ballot A legal analysis by the Ohio Attorney General," accessed Nov. 3, 2023
Protect Women Ohio, "Governor Mike DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine Star in New Anti-Issue 1 Ad Hitting Airways," accessed Nov. 2, 2023
PolitiFact, "PolitiFact | All abortion bans include exceptions for a mother’s life. But are they working?," June 23, 2023
Library of Congress, "Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).," 1973
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