This week, Ohio University’s Student Senate held a debate regarding Issue 1 on the ballot of the upcoming election, which concerns the protection of abortion in the Ohio State Constitution. On the pro-choice side were Women’s Affair Senator Maggie Giansante and Senate Historian Faith Merkle, and on the pro-life side were University Life Commissioner Olivia Kaiser and Executive Staff Assistant Olivia Barnes.
While questions from the audience were presented near the end of the debate, the most pressing issues covered by the two opponents were regarding the nullification of parental consent from Ohio courts and the morality of certain medical practices.
Olivia Kaiser opened by illustrating the damaging outcomes that the demolition of parental consent could have. She argues that if you need parents’ permission to purchase Tylenol, for example, permission should legally be granted for an operation such as abortion. “Parents have a right to know what is happening to their children,” she later says. “Minors could be manipulated into getting an abortion in order to remove the evidence of their abusers’ crimes.”
Maggie Giansante came to the stand to defend the nullification of parental consent. She argued that HIPAA laws already allow minors to make medical decisions in confidentiality and that minors should have established bodily autonomy as many fear a fragile relationship with their parents proceeding with an abortion.
After some brief dissent on the subject, the debate swiftly shifted to whether abortion should fall into the hands of the federal government or the state governments. Faith Merkle began the discussion by emphasizing the importance of the federal government carrying out the law of reproductive health. “The state-by-state approach results in disparities and reproductive health care and reproductive health care causing logistical and financial hardship for individuals seeking abortion and other reproductive health care service,” Merkle retorts. She cited that abortion is a complex matter and a federal perspective provides the best means to address it in a way that respects individual rights, safety, and abilities for all.
Kaiser opposed this by presenting why they believe Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, the landmark case that held that the federal government did not protect abortion, makes sense and was a correct decision regarding the protection of abortion. She argues that Issue 1 is not a suitable solution for addressing abortion regulations in Ohio and goes much further than the precedent that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey established respectively in 1973 and 1992. She argues that abortion will be the freest regulation in Ohio’s history because Issue 1 states that you can not “directly or indirectly burden, penalize, prohibit, discriminate against.”
The two parties then discussed the definition of viability and its impact on the realm of Issue 1. Kaiser stated that viability is when a fetus can survive outside the womb by its own means, but, she argued that viability is subjective as pregnant patients’ doctors may decide when abortion is necessary, even after viability, to protect their health or life. The party takes issue with the fact that the amendment allows abortion through all nine months, and raises concerns about the profit motive that doctors have when performing an abortion.
Giansante opposed the concern for profit motives that Kaiser brought up previously regarding a $25,000 fee for late-term abortions. “I don’t know who here can afford that, but I’m going to say most of us. That is very inaccessible to the 49% of people who receive an abortion, who are in poverty currently.”
The two parties then discussed room for compromise if Issue 1 were not to pass. Merkle explained that the current laws allow abortions up to 22 weeks, implying that she could see extensive changes that allow abortion operations to take place even further than that. Kaiser consents to this, iterating that if Issue 1 passes, there is no compromise. Furthering her argument, she believes the precedent set by Issue 1 is a slippery slope, later beginning to discuss how the potential legalization of partial-birth abortions in Michigan, which recently fully legalized abortion last November, could be applicable to Ohio if Issue 1 passes.
For the last question of the day from the Commission, the two parties discussed the furtherance of postnatal care from state and local governments. This subject is one of the only ones the two came to a relative agreement on. Both parties generally supported the funding and support of postnatal care services, especially services offered in Athens County. However, both parties seemed to disagree on the viability of adoption services. The pro-choice side argues that the adoption system is not healthy for children and allows for children to be placed in unsafe conditions and an overflowing capacity of children, while the pro-life side cites that high demand for adoptive families and a thorough interview process ensuring child safety are already viable enough measures.
The discussion proceeded to close with questions from the audience. The two parties debated on the appropriate time or reason to get an abortion and access to abortion for minority populations. Both parties disagree on whether abortion should be available for nine months or the already established 22 weeks and whether abortion access for minorities was beneficial or unbeneficial for those groups. Following questions, the debate was dismissed.