Commentary

Women merit no mention by misogynist, extremist politicians ripping away their bodily autonomy

Ohio’s governor disgustingly encouraged ‘spirited debate’ between oppressors and oppressed

July 5, 2022 3:20 am

COLUMBUS, OH — JUNE 24: Rebecca Molnar of Hilliard (left) acknowledges support from a passing car from a small group of protesters gathering after the Supreme Court announced the reversal of Roe v. Wade, June 24, 2022, at the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)

Reducing women to compulsory breeders, under penalty of law, by eviscerating landmark abortion rights never came up in Republican talking points after Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

Women didn’t even rate an asterisk in the party script copied and pasted in GOP statements that portrayed the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical nullification of reproductive freedoms as a “win for state’s rights” and a “win for the right to life movement.” Ohio Republicans massaged the two themes with moral righteousness “Praise the Lord!” and celebrated the ruling “in favor of life and liberty” as a gateway to more legislation restricting the lives and liberties of Ohio women.

Carpetbagger J.D. Vance quoted Bible verse and waxed euphoric that overturning Roe meant “all of us (except women) are truly created equal.” Then he reverted to form, denigrating women (childless liberals) with fresh bilge in a tweet that derided working women (many of whom are mothers) who’ve “been had” by the notion that it’s “liberating” to labor “90 hours a week in a cubicle” but “bad to become mothers.” What and who is this barefoot-and-pregnant neanderthal, who fancies himself the next U.S. Senator from Ohio, even talking about??

Ladies, we are under siege by far-right extremists who want to put women in their place. As women reel with the immediate and long-term ramifications of losing a fundamental right to abortion and self-determination, right wing politicians blithely pour salt in the wound with misogyny and temerity. Their complete indifference to the crushing setback in equality suffered by millions of their constituents is stunning.

One anti-woman political party is dehumanizing over half the population without batting an eye. Total detachment. The day the Supreme Court canceled a 50-year-old constitutional right allowing women to make their own medical decisions without political interference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ludicrously urged a kumbaya moment between both sides of the abortion divide — those demanding forced birth and vigilante justice for aiders and abettors of abortion and women demanding freedom to decide their destiny.

DeWine stressed that “spirited debate” (about consigning pregnant women to regulated chattel) ought to be done in “a civil way with respect for each other.” Plain evidence of a fully detached governor floating the notion of civility between oppressor and oppressed. A week before the Roe bombshell, the same Republican vowed to “go as far as we can” to outlaw a woman’s right to choose while raising concerns with Ohio Right to Life members about abortion pills and “people traveling to other states.” 

The so-called “heartbeat” abortion ban DeWine signed in 2019 — held up until recently by a federal court — has thrown countless Ohio women with unplanned pregnancies into a health care crisis. But they, over two million Ohioans of child-bearing age, do not matter. At all. Republican leadership hardly acknowledges them. The “heartbeat” abortion ban is a good example. It is triggered after detected cardiac activity, around six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. It is now the law in Ohio. 

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost rushed to enact the draconian measure minutes after the Supreme Court rescinded abortion as a protected constitutional right. A desperate appeal to block the ban failed in the state supreme court. Yost, borrowing a page from Justice Samuel Alito’s legal sophistry in Roe, lamely argued that because no right to abortion was mentioned in the Ohio Constitution, circa 1851, the court could not create one and should leave the issue to Republicans in the legislature or let it be determined by the ballot box.  

Women were missing altogether as abortion deciders. In Yost’s response to the court, he only hinted at the dripping contempt of women that Alito employed in the majority opinion he wrote. The right-wing jurist sneered that women (outraged by the indignity of being denied the same bodily autonomy afforded men) had sufficient recourse to remedy the matter as they “are not without electoral or political power.” Go ahead, challenge your second-class status.

But good luck in states like Ohio, and others, where Republicans enjoy a raw monopoly on power thanks to their gerrymandered job security. With an ironclad lock on the Ohio General Assembly, the Republican supermajority is already cooking up more radical legislation to regulate the lives of Ohio women who get pregnant. Ohio House Bill 598 would make abortion illegal in the state at conception. 

The bill could be fast-tracked for passage after the November election. Republican state Rep. Jean Schmidt, who left Congress under an ethics cloud, is confident of the GOP votes in both chambers and the full support of the governor to criminalize abortion after fertilization — joining at least five other states ahead of Ohio. Statehouse Republicans, who wouldn’t touch gun regulation, are almost giddy about obliterating reproductive rights for millions of Ohioans with no-exception abortion bans, imposing criminal penalties for helping a woman terminate her pregnancy and prohibiting birth control. 

They calculate little political downside to lawmaking that is patently anti-woman but recognize the electoral upside in capitalizing on the anti-abortion fervor of the religious right to win votes. But here’s the thing. Women who grew up with Roe and those who came of age before it, are twitching with rage in suburbs, cities and rural villages. 

They drove the outcome of the 2018 midterms and women reduced to compulsory breeders after Roe will damn sure drive it again in 2022.

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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

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.

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