No ‘Safe Space’ to stand: Vote No on Issue 1, give human life a resounding victory


Dr. Ashley K. Fernandes, MD, Ph.D.  CT photo by Ken Snow

One day many years ago, my medical students asked me what the most important advice I could give them was, before we went our separate ways. I thought about my life as a physician and bioethicist; my intense study of moral philosophy and the philosophy of science as a Ph.D. student; and the lessons my parents taught me as Catholic Indian immigrants who believed in the promise of America so much, that they left their beloved country to start anew in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Reflecting on all of this, I told them: “Between good and evil, there is no ‘safe space’ to stand.” 

Never have those words rung more true than the ballot initiative — Issue 1 — posed before the people of Ohio this November 7. We must, as Catholics, every single one of us, rise up with all our might to crush this amendment. For on the greatest moral issue of the day — the sanctity of human life — we cannot h ope to stand neutral in some fictitious, secure place, hoping the dark, shadowy clouds will quickly pass over us like violent summer storms. The darkness that is coming if Ohioans vote for Issue 1 will be pervasive. It will annihilate the love of human life our state has carefully built — however imperfectly — since Roe vs. Wade and its fall.

When you vote in this election — and you must vote NO — remember these five key points as you inform yourselves and your neighbors’ consciences:

1. If Issue 1 passes, abortion will become legal through the ninth month, after the baby can feel pain. Do not let people tell you this is “misinformation.” Here is the language on the ballot, verbatim: “Always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability, if, in the treating physician’s determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant person’s life or health.” Clearly, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, the amendment is too extreme: it allows a child to be aborted at any stage, till the moment of birth; it does not even use the word “woman” or “mother” anywhere in the amendment language (“pregnant person”); any physician can determine the definition of a “health” justifying abortion (e.g., anxiety could allow abortion); and in the very rare instance where a serious threat to the mother’s life could not be managed medically, and where an unborn child would have to pass away because of it, no current or proposed law prevents this treatment. 

2. A “No” vote does not threaten any medical care for pregnancy, miscarriage or even contraception. Though our Church teaches firmly against artificial contraception, many within our own parishes and outside our Church use it. But no proposed or existing law threatens any authentic women’s health care. The amendment’s “protection” of these aspects of health care is a ruse. Indeed, in one estimate, more than 80% of obstetrics and gynecology doctors will not even perform an abortion now — so don’t be intimidated or cowed by the “1,000 doctors” who sponsored this amendment. There are thousands more, the silent majority, that feel differently and know how to deliver excellent women’s health care — without killing. 

3. Abortions hurt women, and we should never vote for anything that hurts women. Our Church teaches that women are more than their bodies — they are created in the divine image, and, like all human persons, they have a right to truly be free; and freedom does not lie in simply choosing, but in choosing the good. Pro-life women in our state must stand up and be counted and lead us to crush this amendment — a supposed “women’s rights” amendment so obsessed with gender fluidity it does not even say the word “woman” or “mother” once. Say no to pressuring women to have abortions; say no to lying to women about what their unborn child really is and means; say no to the devastating mental health effects of post-abortion syndrome; say no to a society that would rather pay for women to have abortions than pay for child care or stable families. Catholic Women of Ohio, we need you to guide us, following the courage of Mary, to see the face of God in the unborn and vote no, leading your families to do the same.

4. Realize that Ohio’s very constitution — the same document that banned slavery in the state at its founding — will be dangerously scarred. This is not a change that can be simply “undone” if one has “buyer’s remorse” after election day. This ballot amendment is so extreme, the abortion proponents have spent $50 million (more than twice what all pro-life efforts have) through outside groups (that have had success in Michigan and California) to change what we Ohioans stand for. All Catholics and all Ohioans know how radical those abortion laws are, and will be, in abortion “sanctuary states.” Is that what Ohio truly is, morally and constitutionally? Is abortion now an absolute “right” that the state — in the words of the amendment itself – “shall not directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against?” 

5. Do not be bullied or intimidated, but pray and have courage! Now is the time to stand up for life, if ever there was one! Ignore the “Vote Yes” signs, the glittering anti-life billboards, the incessant and inaccurate TV commercials. Put a VOTE NO sign in your own yard. Go door to door in these last days. Talk quietly to friends and neighbors. Encourage people to vote, and drive them to the polls to vote no. And pray with every breath. Pray for women with unplanned pregnancies, and those who have had abortions or are contemplating them — that Christ and His Blessed Mother will bring them peace when this amendment is defeated, as we work to build a pro-life, supportive culture. Pray for the volunteers of our Crisis Pregnancy Centers, whose work continues whether Issue 1 is defeated or not — that the Lord may strengthen them and that the Holy Spirit may give them words of wisdom to bring Christ’s love to the abortion-minded. Pray for our holy bishops and priests, who have tried against all odds, to be good shepherds in these times and lead us to embrace the sanctity of life. Pray for pro-life Catholic doctors, nurses, and other health professionals — that we may long continue to be able to uphold life without threats to our conscience and laws that pressure us to kill. Pray finally for pro-choice Catholics and those still undecided, that in these final days they may come home, and see that women are not just bodies, that an unborn child is not just a meaningless blob of tissue, and that this amendment is too extreme for all those of good will, pro-life or pro-choice. 

Wherever the light retreats, the darkness invades — yes, even into “safe spaces.” Abortion is evil. We cannot, and should not, expect “reasonable limits” to it if Issue 1 passes. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Light of the World.” It is His light we must carry forward boldly, without fear or apology, into the darkness and shadow of Issue 1. It is the light of Christ we must bear in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts as we march to the polls in droves never before seen, to crush this absolutely cruel amendment. If we can just do this, our “No” vote will resound in every state in this country and in the world that the money and power and untruths of radical outsiders cannot steal the soul of our life-loving, God-fearing state. When you vote no on Issue 1, you will be a part of this David-beats-Goliath revolution, led by Catholics who respect the science, and always serve God first.

Dr. Ashley Fernandes, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician and bioethicist, the older brother of Bishop Earl Fernandes, and a member of the Board of the Catholic Medical Association of Central Ohio ( His views are his own, do not represent those of his employers, and are protected under the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.