Update on the Legal Rights of Ohio Students

August 9, 2023
Issue 1

Issue 1 and the November Ballot Initiative 

In the special election that took place in August 2023, Ohio voted against Issue 1. Issue 1 proposed requiring 60% of the vote to pass a constitutional amendment rather than a simple majority. Although not explicitly stated in the proposed amendment language, passing Issue 1 might have had an impact on the reproductive rights of Ohio residents. This is pertinent because the ballot initiative for the upcoming November General Election seeks to modify Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution by introducing Section 22, titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.” This proposed amendment would legislatively return Ohio to a pre-Dobbs legal landscape in which women could legally end a pregnancy until the point of fetal viability.  

Impact on Student Choices 

After the United States Supreme Court released its decision in June 2022 for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, certain students have started considering a state’s stance on reproductive rights while applying to colleges. This situation is particularly relevant in Ohio, where the November ballot initiative could influence the choices of students who have transferred from Ohio colleges or who have opted not to seek admission to Ohio colleges. For certain students, reproductive rights are a critical issue influencing their decisions. 

Reproductive Healthcare Accessibility and Student Success 

Reproductive healthcare accessibility plays a role in the success of certain students within colleges and universities. Instances of unplanned pregnancies may contribute to a decline in an institution’s overall enrollment. Furthermore, these unexpected pregnancies may disrupt a student’s college plan, leading some students to leave college to care for their infants or secure employment to financially support their family. Despite Title IX regulations safeguarding students from pregnancy-based discrimination by granting them the right to take leave from classes, the tangible challenges associated with becoming a parent extend beyond regulatory provisions. Consequently, colleges will still have to decide how to accommodate the needs of new parents. 

The Role of Colleges and Universities 

Numerous colleges have made efforts to cater to the diverse contraceptive needs of their student populations. However, despite the presence of contraception options, instances of pregnancy still occur. In such cases, the student has discretion in seeking guidance on the choices that are legally available to them to address the pregnancy. In the context of Ohio, the legal landscape has been undergoing changes: the state has transitioned from a period of legalized pregnancy termination, then implemented legislation prohibiting such an act after six weeks, and subsequently encountered a court order halting the enforcement of that statute. Presently, students in Ohio retain the ability to access the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, although the legal regulations remain unsettled.  

KJK’s Student & Athlete Defense group advocates for students and professionals across the country. For further information, please contact Susan Stone (SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220), Kristina Supler (KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).  

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