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Ohio Republicans offer the wrong response to abortion rights vote

For too many in the GOP, election results are the starting point for a conversation, instead of the end of the conversation. Take Ohio, for example.


Ohio Republicans tried everything they could think of to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment on abortion rights. As we discussed last week, they tried to force proponents to get 60% of the vote. They tried purging registered Ohioans from the voter rolls. They added needlessly provocative “unborn child” phrasing to the literal wording of the initiative as it appeared on the ballot. GOP leaders in the state even lied to the public about the implications of the measure.

It didn’t work. The reproductive rights measure received more than 56% of the vote in this increasingly red state.

On the surface, it appeared that the debate over abortion in Ohio had effectively run its course. The people of the Buckeye State considered the issue, had a debate, participated in an election, and rendered a verdict. The question was answered. The fight was over.

But below the surface, a group of GOP legislators said they didn’t quite see it that way. As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones summarized:

It looks like Ohio GOPers aren’t taking “yes” for an answer. After Ohioans voted Tuesday to enshrine access to abortion care in their state constitution, more than a third of the Republican caucus in Ohio’s House of Representatives issued a joint statement essentially vowing to keep up their fight to restrict abortion.

In fact, the statement from the Republican legislators said the voter-approved amendment to the state constitution is “vague” and “intentionally deceptive,” adding, “We were elected to protect the most vulnerable in our state, and we will continue that work.”

And how, pray tell, do these state lawmakers intend to reject the will of their own state’s voters? A report in USA Today added:

“To prevent mischief by pro-abortion courts with Issue 1, Ohio legislators will consider removing jurisdiction from the judiciary over this ambiguous ballot initiative,” according to a Thursday night news release with quotes from four GOP House representatives. “The Ohio legislature alone will consider what, if any, modifications to make to existing laws based on public hearings and input from legal experts on both sides.”

In other words, if these Ohio Republicans have their way, the GOP-led state government could consider ignoring the protections created by Issue 1, and the public wouldn’t have an opportunity to take the matter to court because these same Republicans would strip the judiciary of their ability to hear such cases.

It’s not yet clear whether and to what extent GOP officials might pursue such a strategy. Perhaps cooler heads will yet prevail.

But as the story develops, there’s a degree of familiarity to the circumstances.

When voters in Missouri approved Medicaid expansion at the ballot box, Republican policymakers in the state balked, public will be damned. When voters in Florida cleared the way for former felons to regain the right to vote, Republican policymakers in the state quickly took steps to undermine the policy that the electorate had just approved.

When voters in Kansas took steps to protect abortion rights, Republican policymakers in the state didn’t much care. When voters in Utah backed an independent redistricting commission, Republican policymakers in the state also didn’t much care.

For too many in the GOP, election results are the starting point for a conversation about how to proceed, instead of the end of the conversation.

In the United States, there’s an expectation that we’ll settle disputes at the ballot box. In recent years, however, after voters have rendered a verdict, some Republicans have effectively responded, “We’ll see.”