Activism in Action

Graduate student on front lines advocating for Issue 1

“For students especially, this is our future. This is about your individual rights as a person, and it's incredibly important because this is the future that we have for Ohio.”   

Sam Zern says her decision on Issue 1 is an easy “Yes.”  

“I know a lot of Kent State students are from Ohio and plan to stay here,” she said. “This is how we make the state better for ourselves.”

As a graduate student in Kent State University’s College of Public Health and regional field organizer for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, Zern is working to help others see what she believes is the issue's value.

“Issue 1 essentially will add an amendment to our state's constitution that protects an individual's right to their own reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, abortion and fertility treatment, miscarriage management and birth control,” Zern said. “Essentially, it restores and protects some of the freedoms that we lost or some of the safety that we lost after the Dobbs decision.”  

Known as the Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative, the issue – if passed – will amend Article I of the Ohio Constitution by adding Section 22, titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety.” If rejected, Ohioans will not have the constitutional right to "make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood organizers and volunteers canvassing in Akron, Oct. 28
Zern (top left) with Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood organizers and volunteers canvassing in Akron, Oct. 28

Activism Rooted in Storytelling

Zern got her start in politics as a statehouse reporter working in Pennsylvania. When she moved to Ohio, Zern reported for the Canton Repository, covering health and community news.  

It was during this time that she discovered a new passion.

“I found that what I actually liked was the topic more than the journalism and the writing, and I really wanted to express opinions because I had a lot, and you don't really do that in journalism so much,” Zern said. “So, I wanted to move more into the activism and advocacy space.”  

Zern currently works for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights where she spreads awareness for Issue 1 and corrects what the group believes are common misconceptions surrounding the proposed amendment. When she’s not coordinating and training volunteers, Zern is passing out lawn signs, working a virtual phone bank and going door-to-door to engage voters.

“What we're hearing is they're saying things like, ‘Oh, you don't need Issue 1 because abortion is protected up to 22 weeks.’ What they're not saying is that the only reason abortion in Ohio is protected right now is because the ACLU and Preterm are suing the state,” Zern said. “The six-week ban is being argued in court right now, and the State Supreme Court could decide at any moment, and that six-week ban would come back into effect.”  

Know Before You Go

To help combat the spread of misinformation, Zern urges voters to read up on all aspects of the upcoming election, not just Issue 1.

“Definitely do your research beforehand because you never want to get in there and realize you forgot that there's a judge race and you don't know who to vote for,” she said.

Zern recommends The Ohio Bar Association to break down legal jargon, the League of Women Voters of Ohio for easy-to-read voter guides, to view a sample ballot and

“ is just a site with our amendment and the plain text of what would go into law,” Zern said. “It's important to know that what appears on the ballot is not what's going into law. There was a whole legal dispute over that. The legal language is a lot more inclusive, it's ‘individuals’ instead of ‘women,’ it's ‘fetus’ instead of ‘unborn,’ or whatever stigmatizing language they put into the ballot.”

In addition to educating themselves on relevant topics, voters should make sure they bring proper photo identification to the polls in compliance with House Bill 458 that went into effect last April.

A full list of acceptable forms of ID is available from, but an unexpired Ohio driver’s license or State of Ohio ID card will suffice for voters to cast their ballots on Nov. 7, or, as Zern would recommend, in the weeks before.

“I preach the gospel of early voting. You don't want, on Nov. 7, for something to come up, a project you forgot about or your friend with a car isn't available that day. So, make your plan,” Zern said. “If you do want to go on election day, have that plan set up for when you're going, what you're doing, get yourself a little treat afterwards. I always do, I get myself coffee and go vote.”

POSTED: Tuesday, October 31, 2023 12:19 PM
Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023 07:42 AM