Commentary

DeWine can’t compensate for ripping away women’s bodily freedom with handouts

October 11, 2022 4:20 am

COLUMBUS, OH — AUGUST 26: Governor Mike DeWine talks with the press at a gubernatorial forum hosted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) in partnership with the Ohio Association of Regional Councils (OARC), August 26, 2022, at the Hilton Columbus Downtown, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal / Republish photo only with original story)

And lo, there was great rejoicing among the subjugated sex in Ohio. He who would control their bodies, and thus their liberties, was talking diaper discounts! What a game changer. In exchange for ripping away their reproductive freedom, Mike DeWine was dishing deals to pregnant women and girls (and rape and incest victims) to mitigate the forced labor and delivery he effectively mandated in the state.

What a governor! Who knew the Republican could be so magnanimous and so merciless? Not the raped and pregnant 10-year-old Columbus child forced to leave the state or give birth to her rapist’s baby under the abortion ban DeWine made law. Not the countless others profoundly traumatized his near total prohibition on abortion access without exception. (The extreme measure, in place for about three months, was recently put on indefinite hold by an Ohio court pending constitutional resolution.) 

But the man who greenlit the draconian dictate denying women the right to choose their own destinies and who promised to “go as far as we can” to outlaw choice in Ohio was suddenly moved to save those he would dominate. Hallelujah! His proposed largesse, chock full of family-friendly plans and free stuff for babies, would surely be hailed as a godsend to Ohio women ill-equipped to face a future of compulsory births.

DeWine may lord over the personal, private health care decisions of Ohio women, but he went out of his way to showcase himself as a compassionate conservative, not a callous politician cowed by a right-wing base. Give him his props, gals. He obviously aimed to convince the women he was intent on controlling that he really cared about them and their families. He practically gushed about how his proposals, from cheaper diapers to expanded Medicaid, would make all the difference for those living under his forced-birth dogma.    

“I have a vision for Ohio to be the best place in the nation to have a baby and raise a family,” DeWine beamed like a benevolent grandpa prepared to pass out homemade cookies baked by his kindly wife. How uplifting for all the pregnant Ohio women and minors forced to have a baby and raise a family in the best place in the nation!  Wow. The guv painted such a heart-warming image of bliss under subjugation.

But wait. There’s more. He pledged to add prenatal, post-partum and pediatric resources — for Ohio women denied the right of self-determination — and more funding to adoption programs and foster care systems as fallback to a certain baby boom. Clearly, DeWine, who is running for re-election against former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, pitched funding and supporting babies and families as a political, if utterly tone-deaf, calculation.

Maybe he figured suburban ladies would swoon over his professed concern for the welfare of pregnant women he didn’t hesitate to rob of dignity and bodily autonomy. DeWine even threw in extended paid maternity as a sweetener. Of course, that plan — for some state employees who qualify — would bypass the vast majority of Ohio families grappling with more children under his abortion ban. But it’s the thought that counts, right? 

DeWine lobbed a bunch of ideas to fund pro-baby, pro-parent initiatives — in a state notorious for high infant and maternal death rates. Never mind that on his watch 864 Ohio infants died before their first birthday in 2020, with Black babies dying almost three times more often than white babies. Never mind that pregnancy-related deaths among Black women remains more than twice the rate of white women in Ohio. 

The shameful disparate outcomes during DeWine’s tenure were exacerbated by a lack of access to quality health care for many poor women. Now, a promised lack of access to abortion care under DeWine, coupled with the inability of women with no daycare for the children they have, no time off from the jobs they need and no financial means to travel out of state, will seal their government-ordained fates.  

But, hey, the governor vowed to eliminate sales taxes on baby supplies! How generous is that? Free-car seats and cribs are a DeWine vision thing too, along with stable housing for new mothers. And yet, in truth, those of child-bearing age in Ohio (denied the right to choose their own destinies under DeWine’s challenged abortion ban) rejoiced not.

What the guv rolled out four weeks from Election Day would be funny if it were not so insulting to the women of Ohio he reduced to second class citizens. How dare he further indignify them with a patronizing pretense about caring to distract from his role in their distress? Honestly, DeWine waxing poetic about making Ohio family friendly, despite his indifference to pregnant women and children in crisis forced to flee the state for help, disclosed more about him than anything else.

He cares about keeping power. Period. So he caters to powerful contingencies from Christian fundamentalists to corrupt corporations and gun lobbyists protecting profits over people. And lo, DeWine is revealed for what he is.  By his diaper discount, a sick affront to cover ambition, we shall know him.   

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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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