This fall in Ohio, conservatives are at risk of losing a significant battle in the culture war. Unfortunately, very few on the right outside the state seem to sense the danger.
You can hardly blame most people for not noticing. By all appearances, the woke left has been on the retreat as of late. Poll after poll has shown that the GOP’s new focus on parental rights and protecting children from gender ideology is extraordinarily popular. Dozens of states have taken action to roll back the transgender agenda, protecting women’s sports and prohibiting transgender surgeries for kids. And the entire right — from Donald Trump to Ron DeSantis to Kevin McCarthy to The Heritage Foundation — has committed itself to this cause.
But even as these surface-level victories have piled up, the left has been busy scheming a way to overturn it all in one fell swoop. Instead of openly engaging in public argument, as conservatives are now doing, they aim instead to enshrine a vague provision into state constitutions that would allow judges to strike down any law opposing their gender insanity.
This November, their plan will get its most important test yet as Ohio is expected to vote on a new state constitutional amendment creating a virtually unlimited right to “make and carry out reproductive decisions.” Last year, amid the clamorous midterm campaign, a very similar amendment quietly passed in Michigan, as did like measures in deep-blue California and Vermont. Ostensibly, these efforts are about abortion. As written, the Ohio provision would make even the most minor restrictions on abortion completely unenforceable. But the consequences would be far more extensive than that.
If the amendment’s leftist authors had simply wanted to allow abortions, they could have written it that way. Instead, the amendment explicitly states that while the phrase “reproductive decisions” includes abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage, pregnancy, and the like, it is “not limited” to just that.
Conservatives shouldn’t fool themselves. This is also about trans medical interventions (or, as the left euphemistically calls them, “gender-affirming care”).
How will a judge interpret “reproductive decisions”? Transgender medical interventions inevitably involve the alteration of male and female reproductive biology. Children undergoing what the left calls “gender transition” are given chemical-castration drugs, injected with the opposite sex’s reproductive hormones, and ultimately put on a path toward genital surgery. It’s not difficult to imagine an activist judge deciding that this process counts as one of the unspecified “reproductive decisions” the law contemplates. Laws curbing such medical interventions for minors have already been enjoined on far shakier grounds than that.
Basic Safety Standards at Risk
The amendment would prohibit any law that would “directly or indirectly” “burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against” the ability of any individual to exercise this new “right.” Bans on transgender procedures for minors would potentially be wiped out in an instant. But even beyond that, parental notification or consent requirements, or even just basic health and safety standards, would also be in clear danger of getting tossed.
The text also prohibits any interference with, or burden on, any “person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right.” Could a judge possibly rule that a prohibition on radical gender indoctrination in the classroom unduly “interferes with” an organization “assisting” an individual in “mak[ing] … reproductive decisions”? Conservatives surely should not want to find out.
GOP Must Strongly Oppose This Strategy
You’d think Republicans would be taking to the ramparts and pouring millions of dollars into educating voters about this referendum. A huge portion of the GOP’s governing agenda will be at risk if this, and other ballot measures like it, are allowed to skate by unopposed. But so far, the national party’s response has been muted. Republican elites are skittish about discussing abortion, and they don’t seem to see the other dangers this amendment poses.
The left, tellingly, is happy to keep it that way. When the obvious sex implications of the vote are brought up, they’ll downplay or even outright deny them. Vague abortion rhetoric and invocations of “reproductive freedom” are just about the only social-issue arguments they feel confident about, and they’re more than happy to use a referendum purportedly about abortion as the Trojan horse to smuggle through the rest of their agenda.
The rest of the party needs to wake up. If this strategy works in Ohio, a state that has lately leaned Republican, the left will use the momentum to replicate it everywhere. For conservatives to cement the progress we’ve made in fighting the pernicious consequences of gender ideology and continue to move forward in protecting kids and families, we must ensure this amendment, and all others like it, go down to defeat.