Lawmaking in Ohio has become a national and international embarrassment. A model of far-right extremism that draws gasps of incredulity. The severe ramifications of Ohio’s abortion ban on a pregnant child in the state, a victim of rape, generated worldwide disbelief and disgust. But the state legislature, whose so-called “heartbeat” bill would have forced a 10-year-old to give birth, doesn’t think its heartless brutality goes far enough. It wants to pass even more extreme, no-exception abortion bans after the fall election.
In two weeks, many of the legislators who made forced birth a reality in Ohio will be on the Aug. 2 primary for state representatives and state senators. Put that date on your calendar and, while you’re at it, add the general election on Nov. 8. Go ahead. I’ll wait. This is critical. The state rep or state senator you ultimately send to Columbus will wield the power to make or break Ohio.
They will vote yay or nay on bills already introduced by Statehouse extremists that would outlaw abortion at conception, make doctors who perform them felons, allow anyone to sue health care providers who aid or abet an abortion — and worse. Ohio voters no longer have the luxury of brushing off down-ballot races for the legislature as an afterthought to the marquee attractions at the top. Frankly, that’s how we got in the mess we’re in — a state that would force a child rape victim to endure childbirth but abolish gun permits, background checks and firearm training.
Ohio’s six-week abortion ban was passed in 2019 by state Republican lawmakers (no Democrats) and immediately signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. It was blocked by a federal court pending the outcome of Roe but reinstated the same day women and girls lost their half-century constitutional right to abortion June 24, 2022. Point is, the extremism of right-wing lawmakers put that statute on the books.
It is they who bear responsibility for the hardship heaped on a ten-year-old Ohio child impregnated by her rapist and banned from getting an abortion in her home state. It was their unforgiving abortion ban — with no exceptions for rape or incest — that put a sexually assaulted and pregnant third grader in the nightmarish position of being forced to give birth in Ohio because her pregnancy went three days past the impossible time frame for a legal abortion.
The child was spared the horror of mandated labor and delivery by traveling out-of-state for a medical abortion, but others in Ohio similarly victimized may not be as fortunate and suffer in a state absolutely indifferent to their plight. So, save some of your outrage — over the despicable Ohio politicians who gained recent notoriety for dismissing the anguish of a pregnant child rape victim — for those equally contemptable in the Ohio House and Senate.
Every state legislator who voted his or her party line in support of the “heartbeat” bill, that effectively outlawed abortion in the state, is complicit in the pile-on misery of a 10-year-old in crisis. Maybe one of those extremists represents your district. Don’t let them fly under the radar. Statehouse Republicans, running for reelection, must own the real-life ramifications of the merciless forced birth policy they approved. DeWine must own the ordeal he imposed on a raped and pregnant child with the punishing abortion ban he couldn’t wait to reinstate.
State Attorney General Dave Yost, who scoffed about the validity of the case on Fox News, must own the pain he inflicted on the Ohio child and her family whose trauma was disparaged on national television. Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, the stealth seditionist with no moral compass, must own the vile tweet he posted calling the young victim’s hell a lie before deleting it after her rapist confessed.
It took a broken little girl, tragically shattered and scarred and second-guessed by callous right-wingers, to expose the abject cruelty of state leadership and its stark disregard for the most vulnerable. So much for compassionate conservatism. This is not the Ohio I know and love and believe still exists.
But we, as Ohio voters, must own the apathy that allowed our state to descend into a dark place. We don’t care enough about what happens in Columbus — or at all. We elect anyone with a pulse to the legislature and never follow up on performance. Most of us couldn’t tell you who our state rep or state senator is or how they voted on issues from abortion to concealed carry.
But by now the whole world knows that an Ohio child faced what no child should ever face under penalty of law; mandatory childbirth after rape courtesy of alt-right legislators without a soul. Our state government’s slide into a theocratic dystopia can only be stopped by voters who refuse to let Ohio become Texas. No more unchecked power in Columbus. We must make state legislative races a priority on Aug. 2 and Nov. 8 — not a postscript to the election.
So do your homework. Google the candidates. Scrutinize the voting records of incumbents. Vote in the upcoming primary and stay engaged. Volunteer for local campaigns working to counter Ohio’s legislative extremism with empathy, where a child is valued and not victimized to advance a political agenda. It’s critical.
Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.
This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.
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