Issue 1 supporters target parents without the need for fact-checking

August 1, 2023 3:20 am

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — JULY 26: A yard sign in support of Ohio Issue 1. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

We parents are being exploited for political punch. Have you noticed?

We’re the go-to rationale for the culture war nonsense floated by right-wing politicians. When Republicans launch repeated attacks on transgender kids they use us, or more precisely our seemingly endangered parental rights, as justification to cruelly pile on the vulnerable few.

But the newfound political fervor to protect our suddenly imperiled rights is selective – which underscores its phoniness. Parental rights do not apply to parents of trans minors who seek what’s best for them in any of the anti-trans bills bouncing around Republican-controlled statehouses.

Yet political operatives pushing extreme (and wildly unpopular) agendas have latched onto the parental rights angle as a winning strategy. The pro-State Issue 1 campaign is following suit, exploiting parents as a diversionary tactic to disguise the ballot referendum as a nebulous threat coming for you and your kids.

Proponents are going full bore to scare the bejesus out of parents with ominous warnings of trouble ahead should Issue 1 go down in flames. The message is clear; vote yes on Issue 1 to keep kids safe and to strengthen parental rights. Now, to be clear, Issue 1 has nothing to do with parental rights or protecting kids.

It is a Republican legislative initiative to abolish the majority voting power Ohioans have had since 1912 to amend their constitution through citizen-led initiatives. It is an admitted ploy by state GOP lawmakers to thwart a November vote on a citizen ballot initiative to make abortion access a constitutional right.

A coalition of religious and anti-abortion groups is pushing passage of Issue 1 to prevent a majority of Ohioans from amending the state constitution to uphold reproductive freedom. But the alliance isn’t trying to persuade voters on the merits of relinquishing their majority clout in circumventing unrepresentative government.

That position to end 100 years of direct democracy in Ohio in order to impose a white minority theocratic tyranny in the state is indefensible. So anti-abortion zealots change the subject. Fall back on fearmongering. Construct sinister imaginings to prey on the emotions of parents. It’s a distraction to deceive enough parents to pass Issue 1.

Which presumes that parents are chumps. That they’re clutching their pearls in fright at the fictional terror manufactured by abortion opponents. That parents of daughters are okay with abortion being outlawed in Ohio by extremists conspiring to impose their minority beliefs on the majority with passage of Issue 1.

That parents are blind to their exploitation in cultural crusades. Does that presumption sound reasonable to any mainstream parent grounded in reality out there? Nevertheless, millions of dollars are being poured into misleading TV ads, radio spots and digital posts blanketing the state to produce the illusion of Issue 1 as an affront to family values and a call to arms for parents.

Again, we’re talking about a Republican legislative scheme to change the rules on citizen-initiated amendments to the constitution for the stated purpose of blocking a citizen-initiated amendment on abortion rights. But supporters of Issue 1 (fueled by undisclosed dark money funders) want to distract voters from what they’re being asked to surrender in voting rights on August 8.

The media blitz from the Vote Yes on Issue 1 bunch is filled with all sorts of dark musings from an alternative universe. Lots of dread and dog whistles. A 30-second television ad called “Your Promise,” produced by the deceptively named “Protect Women Ohio” anti-abortion consortium, flashes images of drag queens, trans and Pride flags, pro-choice activists and placards that curiously feature a “Stand with Black Women” sign.

The inference is to be afraid of the LGBTQ+ community, abortion rights advocates, Black women (?) and, of course, the mortal danger of drag queens. In the video, a female narrator stokes parental alarm with a made-up menace.

“You promised you’d keep the bad guys away. Protect her. (young girl) Now’s your chance. Out-of-state special interests that put trans ideology in classrooms and encourage sex changes for kids are hiding behind slick ads. Don’t be fooled. You can keep this madness out of Ohio classrooms and protect your rights as a parent by voting “yes” on August 8.”

Whoa. No one is putting trans ideology in classrooms or encouraging sex changes for kids, for Pete’s sake. That’s ridiculous. Keeping “this madness” (which apparently refers to human beings) out of the classroom preaches intolerance and promotes bullying of an already stigmatized population. But darn if the ad didn’t wind up with a pitch to parents.

“Protect your rights” by voting “yes,” the commercial urges, masking the underhanded GOP maneuver to keep abortion illegal in Ohio with a supermajority requirement that stops the will of the majority from amending the constitution. Don’t be fooled.

Don’t be.

What out-of-state special interests are really hiding behind with slick ads and specious tweets, i.e., “Voting Yes on Issue 1 is a just and right cause – standing up for a parent’s right to protect their child” – is the truth. Which is pretty straightforward: Issue 1 asks us to give up our majority right as voters to have a say in the laws of this state and exploiting parents is a desperate attempt to deflect that indisputable fact.



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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.