‘This Is a Critical Moment’: Abortion Issue 1 Takes Center Stage at Ohio March for Life

The Ohio march was organized by the same group behind the National March for Life, which takes place every year in January, in conjunction with Ohio Right to Life.

Crowds gather for the Ohio March for Life outside the Ohio State Capitol in Columbus on Friday, Oct. 6.
Crowds gather for the Ohio March for Life outside the Ohio State Capitol in Columbus on Friday, Oct. 6. (photo: Photo courtesy of Bishop Earl Fernandes)

Ohio Issue 1, an upcoming referendum vote that could institute a right to unlimited abortion into the state Constitution, took center stage at the Ohio March for Life on Friday.

As thousands of pro-lifers marched in Ohio’s capital city of Columbus, many, including large groups of Catholics from parishes, schools and communities across the state, held signs and banners reading “Vote NO on Issue 1.”


The Ohio march was organized by the same group behind the National March for Life, which takes place every year in January, in conjunction with Ohio Right to Life.

The march, which saw the participation of several Ohio political leaders including Sen. J.D. Vance, comes one month ahead of the statewide vote on Issue 1 on Nov. 7. 

“The upcoming vote on the extreme measure known as Issue 1 holds tremendous implications both for Ohio and nationally,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told CNA. 

If Issue 1 is approved, Mancini said, “it would make Ohio one of the most pro-abortion states in the nation by allowing abortion through all nine months — among other harmful consequences.” 

“This is a critical moment,” Bishop Earl Fernandes of Columbus told CNA. 

Bishop Fernandes, who led the opening prayer at the march, has been deeply involved with the movement to defeat Issue 1. He said that “many people are indifferent or simply ignorant of what’s coming up or how much worse than Roe v. Wade this amendment will be.”

Issue 1 is about more than just abortion.

Bishop Fernandes fears that Issue 1 does not just open unborn children to being killed up until the point of birth; he also believes it “isn’t just about abortion.” 

The constitutional amendment could also be used to allow children to obtain sex-reassignment surgeries without parental notification, according to Bishop Fernandes. 

The official language that will be on the ballot in November says that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage, and abortion.” 

The bishop pointed out that the vague wording of “individual” does not specify age or gender and the term “reproductive choices” is not limited to abortion-related decisions. Because of this, he believes Issue 1 could be construed to also remove any limits on gender selection, harvesting of body parts, chemical castration, transgender surgeries, and gender reassignment on minors.

In all, Bishop Fernandes told CNA that if Issue 1 is passed it will be “absolutely devastating” for Ohio and “worse than Roe.”

‘As Ohio Goes, So Goes the Nation’

Video and pictures on social media show downtown Columbus filled with massive crowds of pro-lifers participating in Friday’s march. Many at the march could be heard praying and chanting hymns. 

Bishop Fernandes said there were more than 650 attendees at a pre-march Mass that he celebrated in St. Joseph Cathedral, about two blocks from the State Capitol. 

Starting off the Ohio March for Life strong with a packed and standing-room-only Mass.

Despite the enthusiasm, Bishop Fernandes cautioned that without following through by getting out the vote against Issue 1, the pro-life movement in Ohio would still suffer a crushing blow. 

The consequences, Bishop Fernandes said, will be felt not just in Ohio but across the country. 

“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation,” Bishop Fernandes said, adding that “if you can do it in Ohio” then “you’re going to be able to do it in states like Nebraska and Arizona and so on.”

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement has struggled to achieve many significant victories at the ballot box. Meanwhile, efforts to expand abortion have been much more successful. 

Already, despite pro-life efforts to stop it, a similar ballot initiative enshrined abortion in the Michigan Constitution in 2022. 

“Getting out the vote is going to be critical,” he added, noting that despite their efforts to raise funds they are being outspent by groups supporting Issue 1, who he says are spending tens of millions of dollars on ads. 

“We need to have our people register to vote and actually go to vote and to bus people to vote and to get people who are in assisted living facilities and nursing homes to vote and to vote early if they can,” the bishop said.

Amid it all, Bishop Fernandes said that he continues to trust in prayer and the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

“People from all over the state came, and we prayed together,” he said. “We can never underestimate the power of prayer.”

“Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary,” he continued. “St. Pius V had asked all Christendom to pray, and Don Juan and the Christian forces won the great battle at Lepanto. And I think we should not underestimate the power of prayer and the Rosary in particular in the defense of human life.”

“No matter how the vote goes,” Bishop Fernandes added, “we have to continue our efforts to build the culture of life and the civilization of love.”