CLEVELAND — The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg throws the issue of the balance of the nation's highest court back into the center of the fight for the White House. In a year where traditional voter concerns have been overshadowed by COVID-19, abortion issues are coming to the forefront again.
"Ohioans and Americans have deeply held beliefs on these issues," said Michael Gonidakis with Ohio Right to Life. The leader of the anti-abortion group in the state thinks this single issue is polarizing enough to pull undecided voters toward either candidate.
"But if there are any unmotivated voters that might want to sit this one out, I think they're going to rethink that," he said. "And go and vote for either the two candidates."
"I think undecided voters really need to look at what is important to them and who do they want making those decisions," said Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.
Copeland, the leader of the abortion-rights group, thinks this one issue will make a big impact on people waiting to vote.
"Americans are incredibly principled and thoughtful people," she said. "And I think that they're going to look at this and understand what's at stake."
Gondiakis and Copeland are on opposite sides of the abortion issue and they have different opinions on what needs to happen with the seat left vacant by Ginsburg's death. But they both know there will be a trickle-down impact from the U.S. Supreme Court to moves made here in Ohio, especially on abortion legislation.
Since 2011, pro-life groups in the state have been working on laws that restrict access to abortion in Ohio. The most recent and controversial is legislation commonly known as a "heartbeat bill." The language of the legislation centers around when a heartbeat can be detected. Similar bills moved through state legislatures across the country. Abortion rights groups oppose the bills.
Outside of statehouses, the legality and constitutionality will be argued in courts across the country.
"Someday in the future, the Heartbeat Bill will be before the United States Supreme Court," Gondiakis said. "So the makeup of the court matters tremendously."
The race for the White House is in its waning weeks and polls show a close competition between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Ohio is considered a swing state in this election.
"A core issue for a lot of Ohioans is the issue of abortion," said News 5 political analyst Tom Sutton. "Republicans are much clearer about the importance of court appointments on the Supreme Court than are Democrats."
Absentee mail-in voting and early in-person voting starts on Oct. 6 in Ohio. Polling shows a tight race between Biden and Trump.
Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision, isn't the only progressive decision from the court that hangs in the balance once the court is fully seated again. Justices were set to hear arguments over the Affordable Care Act.
Also, with a record number of mail-in ballots being requested, combined with threats from the president to contest the results of the election, Supreme Court justices may need to rule on election issues before a new nominee can be vetted and voted on by the Senate.