Partisan Ohio Supreme Court election could decide the future of abortion in the state | Ohio

In Ohioa highly partisan fight for three seats on the state Supreme Court could determine the court’s policy direction on a host of important issues, especially abortion.

As the U.S. Supreme Court increasingly hands over issues such as voting rights, abortion, gun rights and gerrymandering to the states, state Supreme Court races become more important than ever.

Few states illustrate how these courts are becoming more political than Ohio, where the judges’ political affiliation will be on the ballot for the first time in the Nov. 8 election, and where the judges of this court will soon determine the fate of the state’s six judges. A week-long abortion ban that has been blocked and unblocked by lower courts ever since Roe vs. Wade overturned in early summer. Abortion is currently legal in the state up to 22 weeks, as the ban is the subject of litigation.

Due to the stakes, more cash also pours into state Supreme Court races across the country from political action committees associated with national parties. Fair Courts America, a Pac associated with the Republican Party, has pledged $22.5 million for state Supreme Court races this election cycle, to support conservative judicial candidates in Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

In Kentucky, that same Pac donated $1.6 million to three conservative judges vying for re-election. One of those judges, Joe Fischer, is a former Republican congressman who was the main sponsor of state abortion ban which came into effect when Roe was overthrown, as well as a anti-abortion referendum to be put to Kentucky voters next week.

“People spent all their time looking at the federal constitution for protections, especially when it came to individual rights. But now the Supreme Court of the United States is essentially saying these issues are best resolved by the courts of the states and their constitutions,” says Bill Weisenberg, former deputy executive director of the Ohio State Bar Association.

In Ohio, after the fall of Roe, ending the federal constitutional right to abortion, the state implemented a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. This ban is currently blocked in a lower state court, but eventually it will land in the state Supreme Court. And the election of certain judges will be decisive in determining the future of the ban.

Ohio’s seven-judge Supreme Court currently has four Republican justices and three Democratic justices. Current Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, is not seeking re-election this year due to age limits, so two other sitting justices, Republican Sharon Kennedy and Democrat Jennifer Brunner, will be battling it out to replace it at the top. place. Two sitting Republican judges, Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer will face Democratic challengers Marilyn Zayas and Terri Jamison, for seats on the court.

O’Connor, the retiring chief justice, was a Republican-affiliated judge who was happy to break the party line on issues such as gerrymandering. She has never openly stated her position on abortion.

But the three Republican justices running on Tuesday said during candidate surveys that they believed there was no constitutional right to abortion, according to local newsmeaning their election could be a fatal blow to abortion rights in Ohio.

They also came under fire in September for attending a Trump rally where the former the president repeated baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen and for then refusing to confirm that the 2020 election results were valid. One of those judges – Pat DeWine – is also coming under scrutiny for liking a tweet promoting a conspiracy theory about the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, asking “what are they hiding?” He has since said he clicked “Like” inadvertently.

Meanwhile, Zayas, Jamison, and Brunner have publicly stated that they believe the Ohio Constitution protects the right to abortion.

Weisenberg cautions that neither political affiliation, nor what a judge says about their opinions before they are elected, are watertight indicators of how they will rule once on the Supreme Court. “People are sometimes surprised when they read the opinion and it doesn’t match what they thought the justice would lean to, or what they had said on a previous occasion,” he said.

Indeed, US Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito noted they believed that the constitutional right to abortion was a precedent set before being upheld by the court.

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