It always seems insufficient to describe abortion as a “political issue.”
We’re not talking about replacing the Brent Spence Bridge, the best way to fund public schools, or how involved militarily we should be in Ukraine.
Abortion transcends differences in political philosophies. There is a wide gulf of difference between two sets of strongly held beliefs.
Do you believe abortion is the immoral killing of an innocent unborn child, or that having an abortion is a deeply personal, private decision for a woman to make about her own body and future?
Yet here we are again.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in June overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling that upheld abortion access for the last five decades quickly pushed abortion back into the forefront of politics with midterm elections nearing in November. Besides U.S. Senate and governor, there are other statewide offices, congressional, statehouse seats and judgeships on the line in Ohio.
This has been looking like a tough election year for Democrats, with President Joe Biden’s poll numbers floundering amid inflation and still-high gas prices, Republican Donald Trump having twice handily carried the former presidential swing state, and Republicans dominating most state races.
But voters, especially suburban women swing voters, with abortion rights weighing on their minds could make some shifts.
Mark Weaver, an attorney and veteran Republican consultant in Ohio, has seen Democratic appeals to abortion rights voters fall short in the past.
“Ohio is a red state and 2022 will be a red wave year,” Weaver said.
“That said, I expect Democrats to try to politically exploit the Supreme Court ruling that returns the question of abortion to the states. “ An Aug. 2 vote in red-state Kansas to uphold abortion rights added to Democratic hopes elsewhere about the issue helping them politically, but that was a single-issue vote compared to all the other matters that will influence voters as they pick office-holders this fall.
“The vast majority of Ohio voters are focused on economic issues, not abortion. I don’t expect abortion politics to be much of a factor come November,” Weaver said.
I wouldn’t dispute that generally, except in some races that so far look very tight. Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan could reap extra support from abortion rights activists he’ll likely need to hold off anti-abortion Republican J.D. Vance for the nationally watched open U.S. Senate seat.
However, you can expect some outside spending to remind voters that Ryan is a late convert to abortion rights — just as there were millions spent to remind that Vance was a late convert to supporting Trump.
Close to home, the House District 27 race between abortion-rights Democrat Rachel Baker and anti-abortion activist Republican Jenn Giroux is among those where abortion might be a decisive issue, one way or the other.
The anti-abortion movement tends to want to look at abortion only from one view—that it is always wrong.
Some Ohio Republicans may grow to realize in the months ahead that they needed to add some more common sense and compassion for mothers to their legislation. Offering no exceptions for rape or incest while making an exception for protecting the mother’s life exceedingly difficult could look increasingly bad as time goes on.
It took little time for a nationally stunning case to highlight their short-sightedness, when the Indianapolis Star and partners including The Enquirer reported on a 10-year-old Columbus rape victim taken to Indiana for an abortion.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost initially decided to become chief media critic in the case instead of chief legal official for the state. His contention that the girl’s abortion would have been legal under Ohio law was contradicted by some people who helped craft the legislation.
Some abortion opponents admitted they didn’t even know a girl so young could get pregnant — it depends on when menstruation begins, which can be as early as 8.
Even if, as Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt of Loveland said in April, bearing a rapist’s baby could be a child-raising “opportunity” for a hypothetical 13-year-old girl, what about the psychological and possible physical trauma the state would consign the girl to?
The misnamed “heartbeat law” adds more vagueness, an effort by legislators to play God by deciding life begins at “fetal heartbeat” even though there is no heart that has formed in what is still an embryo at the six-week period referred to by the law’s supporters.
I can see arguments that abortion should be legal until the fetus is viable outside the womb at 23-24 weeks or for arguing that life begins at conception. Either makes more sense than the heartbeat law.
Now facing criminal penalties for violating a law that is vague on multiple situations, doctors are already shying away from procedures that might preserve a woman’s health.
Yost has said there is an exception for ectopic pregnancies, which occur outside the woman’s uterus and aren’t viable, but some critics of the bill say it could be interpreted differently.
An unaddressed condition, usually not detectable in a fetus until well after six weeks, is anencephaly, in which the baby would be born without parts of the brain and skull and face certain death.
And then there is that gray area of early detection of other severe birth defects in fetuses, with pregnant girls or women who may not be psychologically or practically capable of carrying and raising such special needs babies getting no decision.
Abortion and politics don’t mix well. Proceed with caution.
Enquirer weekly columnist Dan Sewell can be reached at his personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org.