The state-level push to protect abortion rights will continue in Ohio in November with activists trying to amend the state constitution to protect reproductive healthcare. And while conservatives have tried to paint local efforts as outside actors pressuring Ohioans to amend the constitution, it turns out one of the largest pushes on either side is from local Catholic archdioceses, which have given nearly $1 million in donations to defeat the pro-abortion Issue 1.
The Catholic Church, particularly in America, is vehemently anti-abortion. This is not breaking news. What is news is just how much money a handful of Ohio Catholic archdioceses donated to defeat Issue 1—which would allow Ohioans to vote on enshrining reproductive rights into the state constitution, a legal strategy turned to by pro-abortion advocates after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati donated $500,000 to Protect Ohio Women, the main group trying to defeat it. This donation makes it the largest Ohio-based donor. In fact, according to FEC records, its donation is only outpaced (at this time) by repeated donations from the Virginia-based anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and the one-time $2 million from the Virginia-based Protect Women Ohio Action, Inc.
The next largest donations to the anti-abortion side are from the Diocese of Cleveland and the Diocese of Columbus each with donations of $200,000. This means, that together, some of the largest dioceses in the state have given $900,000 to defeat Issue 1. The Cincinnati Enquirer, which first published news of the massive donations, was unable to confirm if more donations were coming before the November vote.
The outlet also reported that the $500,000 donation amounts to about half of the operating costs of Catholic Charities in 2022. Lee Wilson, president of the parish council at Cincinnati’s St. Joseph Church, said the church was unable to keep its school open because of steep repair costs. “I get it. I don’t like abortion, either,” Wilson told the newspaper. “I’m more concerned about what happens after you’re born.” The large donation is also more than double what it spends on the diocese’s Hispanic ministry.
Closing schools one year and then finding half a million dollars the next for a political donation? The diocese is making a pretty clear statement about its priorities.
The idea that out-of-state actors are trying to change Ohio stemmed from the campaign to amend how to amend Ohio’s state constitution. In August, Ohio held a special election for that amendment, which sought to raise the threshold for amending the constitution from a simple majority to 60 percent. (It lost.) The majority of money on both sides of the fight (seen as a test run of the abortion amendment) was powered by out-of-state donors.
The Catholic Church has long been a political actor in America, particularly on issues of bodily autonomy like abortion and who you sleep with. Literally last week, the Diocese of Cleveland barred gender-affirming care and the use of pronouns that wouldn’t be affiliated with the sex listed on a birth certificate.
By a quirk of campaign finances, the nearly $1 million in donations to ant-abortion efforts is legal because the church is donating against a cause, i.e. a ballot issue, and not a partisan candidate. “Each person bears moral responsibility for his or her vote,” Jennifer Schack, Cincinnati archdiocese spokeswoman told The Enquirer.
Polling from last November found that more than 59 percent of registered voters in the states support abortion protections, so we’ll have to see whose morals win out.