Commentary

Abortion referendum shows how out-of-touch Ohio’s gerrymandered, extremist legislature is

August 4, 2022 3:20 am

COLUMBUS, OH — MAY 14, 2022: Hundreds gather at a rally to support abortion rights less than two weeks after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showed a likely reversal of Roe v. Wade, May 14, 2022, at the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal.)

Voters in Kansas Tuesday shot down a ballot referendum to remove abortion rights protections from their state constitution, by a margin of 59-41.

Passing it would have paved the way for state lawmakers there to pass far-reaching abortion restrictions, or even an outright ban. Voters took a megaphone to the national stage and said, “No.”

It turns out, Americans value their personal freedom, and don’t like government controlling their bodies and criminalizing their reproductive decisions.

This is no surprise to anyone who’s ever looked at the many polls on abortion access and reproductive rights.

Most Americans are not extremist one way or another on the abortion issue: They generally believe there should be some restrictions on abortions, but abortion care should not be criminalized and banned outright.

But Ohio’s gerrymandered, extremist state legislature doesn’t care what Ohioans actually think or want.

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn national abortion protections, Ohio’s 2019 six-week abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest was put into effect.

And now, Ohio’s gerrymandered, supermajority Republican legislature is looking at making Ohio’s already extremist abortion ban even more extreme.

Ohio Republicans are planning to move legislation next that will ban nearly all abortions, again with no exceptions for rape or incest.

State Rep. Jean Schmidt doesn’t know yet, she said, whether they will make this new, even more extreme law before or after the November General Election, but either way, she says she has the votes in the General Assembly as well as the “full support” of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

A majority of Ohioans never wanted the abortion ban that was just put into place, and has already resulted in horror stories, including a 10-year-old child rape victim who had to travel to Indiana for care.

A 2019 Quinnipiac University poll showed 52% of Ohio voters opposed the so-called “heartbeat bill” abortion ban while only 39% supported it, with opposition spanning gender, age and religion.

In that poll, about 61% of Ohio voters agreed with the Roe v. Wade decision while 32% opposed it.

Nevertheless, the abortion ban was passed by Ohio’s gerrymandered supermajority Republican legislature, and signed by DeWine.

A Suffolk University/Cincinnati Enquirer poll from early June 2022 shows a majority of likely midterm voters in Ohio want to protect access to legal abortion.

Of all likely voters polled, 53% of respondents wanted to protect abortion rights in Ohio, while 39% want the state legislature to restrict abortions.

Democrats and independents are aligned, with 85% of Democrats and 60% of independents wanting the Ohio state legislature to protect abortion rights.

But — as Kansas voters were rejecting attacks on their freedom Tuesday — Ohio voters were casting ballots in unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts.

Over the past year, Ohio Republicans schemed and maneuvered every dirty trick in the book to run out the clock so their preferred illegal maps were forced by a federal court upon voters.

The reactionary extremist who sued to have them implemented — anti-abortion lobbyist Michael Gonidakis — was rewarded for his role in the plot by being reappointed by DeWine to the Ohio Medical Board.

Thus, Ohioans’ privacy rights, health care rights, marriage rights, discrimination protections, and equal protection under the law are in the hands of extremist lawmakers anointed in partisan primaries, running in illegal and unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts that guarantee their victory.

We aren’t living in the Ohio that most Ohioans want. We are living in the Ohio that corrupt politicians obsessed only with maintaining and maximizing their power, and enriching themselves and their donor friends, want us to live in.

Gerrymandering is a fundamental poison destroying the American Republic.

Gerrymandering pushes politicians to extremesdenies voters their voiceincentivizes corruptionradicalizes political discoursekills compromise, and disintegrates democracy.

But the proverbial rubber is now hitting the road. Voters are angry about having their freedoms ripped away. They are seeing the real-world damage to vulnerable people’s lives that extremist law causes. They’re seething at this government overreach into their personal lives, clawing them away from doctors and critical health care.

The Ohio Supreme Court is currently reviewing a challenge to Ohio’s disastrous abortion ban.

Depending on how that goes, Ohioans, in theory, could launch an initiative to put the question of reproductive rights to Ohio voters sometime in the coming election cycles.

In 2015 and 2018, 71% and nearly 75% of voters amended the Ohio Constitution to enact redistricting reform against partisan gerrymandering.

Bad faith Ohio Republicans made a joke out of those reforms and flagrantly insulted the voters by ignoring their will and the rule of law to once again gerrymander the state anyway.

“Too bad so sad. We win again. Now I know it’s been a tough night for all you libs. Pour yourself a glass of warm milk and you will sleep better. The game is over and you lost. Turn out the lights. The party’s over. For this 2 year cycle at least,” bragged Ohio House Majority Leader Bill Seitz.

I don’t know what kind of morally depraved machinations Ohio Republicans would deploy over an abortion referendum to try to deny Ohio voters their personal freedom and access to health care, but I’d count on it.

If these leading Ohio Republicans are consistent in anything, it’s putting their boots on the face of Ohioans no matter what the majority of Ohioans actually want.

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David DeWitt
David DeWitt

OCJ Editor-in-Chief David DeWitt has more than 15 years experience covering Ohio government, politics and policy, including education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS, and Plunderbund.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on Twitter @DC_DeWitt.

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