Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2023 / 17:40 pm (CNA).
A campaign ad for Ohio's pro-abortion ballot measure Issue 1 wrongly used a Catholic image of Jesus Christ, several Catholic commentators say.
The newly released 30-second video ad from Issue 1 backer Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights shows a montage of people in various contexts, including a man kneeling in prayer in what appears to be a Catholic church. A divine mercy image of Jesus Christ hangs on the wall in the background.
"The ad describing Issue 1 dangerously misrepresents the proposed amendment and how the Catholic Church accompanies pregnant women in need," Michelle Duffey, associate director for communications and outreach at the Ohio Catholic Conference, told CNA Sept. 18.
Issue 1, on the Ohio ballot this November, would amend the state constitution's Bill of Rights to add a right to "reproductive freedom." It would create an individual right to "make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions."
Critics say the measure will strip all rights from the unborn child, allow abortion throughout pregnancy, eliminate safety regulations for abortion clinics, and end mandatory parental consent for minor children's abortions or other health decisions.
As the montage changes, the ad says: "When we face personal medical decisions, we depend on our doctors, our faith, our family, and the last thing we want is the government making those decisions for us."
The ad says the passage of Issue 1 would end "Ohio's extreme abortion ban," protect birth control and "emergency care for miscarriages." The proposal protects freedom and means Ohio families will always have "the freedom to make the most personal of decisions."
Duffey said the ad "nearly tells the truth" in showing a man in prayer while narrating how people depend on faith when pregnant and dealing with uncertainty.
"A woman can confidently rely on the Catholic Church to walk with her through pregnancy, support her material needs, and accompany her and her child after birth," Duffey said.
Brian Hickey, executive director of the Ohio Catholic Conference, challenged the assumptions of the ad.
"Ohio cannot accept a definition of freedom that perpetuates a throwaway culture of only cherishing people as long as they are useful," he said. "The Catholic Church has always advocated for and acted to protect the most vulnerable in society, including the indigent, migrants, and preborn children in the womb."
"We will continue to do so by explaining the harms Issue 1 pose to women, parents, and babies with Catholics and all people of goodwill across Ohio and encourage a no vote on this egregious proposal," Hickey said. "Ohioans deserve just laws that provide expansive resources and accompaniment to mothers and young families, not proposals like Issue 1, which does nothing to support women."
CNA sought comment from Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights but did not receive a response by publication.
The group's website lists dozens of groups that have endorsed Issue 1, including labor unions, LGBT groups, feminist groups, and medical leaders' groups.
Among the endorsers is Catholics for Choice, whose claim to Catholic identity has long been rejected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It drew criticism in January 2022 for projecting abortion advocacy messages onto the outside of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., while Catholics attended a pro-life prayer vigil inside.
Other religious groups endorsing Ohio's Issue 1 are the United Church of Christ and its regional conference, a Unitarian Universalist group, six Jewish groups, Faith in Public Life, Faith Choice Ohio, and the InterReligious Task Force on Central America.
Ohio currently bans abortion after 20 weeks into pregnancy. The state Supreme Court is set to consider whether to reinstate a heartbeat-based abortion ban that bars abortion after six weeks into pregnancy, which a judge blocked earlier this year, WTVG News reported.