SUDDES: DeWine-Whaley battle could be statewide proxy for Roe v. Wade debate

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

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Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

With the U.S. Supreme Court likely to overturn Roe vs. Wade by letting each state regulate abortion as it wishes, the General Assembly’s Democrats are proposing a state constitutional amendment to guarantee Ohio’s women access to abortion.

It’s likely that if the proposal reached Ohio’s ballot, voters would approve it. But getting the measure on the ballot would first require the approval of 60 Ohio House members and 20 state senators.

But Democrats hold only 35 House seats, and eight Senate seats. And while some Republican legislators may privately be pro-choice, they’re unlikely to provide enough votes to put Democrats’ plan on the ballot. The only other way to get the abortion-rights protections on the statewide ballot would be to gather valid signatures from at least 442,958 registered voters. But raising the issue in the legislature should spur debate on the issue.

Key Democrats sponsoring the proposed amendment are Sens. Nickie Antonio, of Lakewood, and Sandra Williams, of Cleveland, and Reps. Jessica Miranda, of suburban Cincinnati, and Michele Lepore-Hagan, of Youngstown.

A committee of each body would have to slate the amendment for floor action. And neither House Speaker Robert Cupp or Senate President Matt Huffman, both Lima Republicans, is likely to want that. Letting Ohio’s voters signify support for choice – which they likely would – isn’t on the GOP’s Ohio agenda. Big surprise.

The General Assembly passed the state’s first anti-abortion law – with an exception for saving a mother’s life – in 1834, when Andrew Jackson was president. The General Assembly toughened that law in 1867, just two years after the Civil War ended.

This year, the potential trap for Republicans is that, for the first time in Ohio history, a major party, in this case, the Democratic Party, has nominated a woman – Dayton’s former mayor, Nan Whaley – for governor. Whaley is resoundingly pro-choice. And she’s challenging the re-election of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, of Cedarville, who has always been 100% right-to-life. Perhaps the DeWine-Whaley battle would serve as a statewide proxy for voters’ stances on Roe vs. Wade. That is, a statewide ballot issue among what’s claimed to be a pro-choice Ohio electorate could turn up the heat on the GOP.

But Republicans would rather turn up their own kind of heat – by bashing LGBTQ people, especially trans people; by bashing migrants; and by bashing those teachers and authors who think that race has played at least some role in America’s history.

GREAT LAKES: Thanks to Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted for an important reminder about a crucial step Ohio took to protect Lake Erie’s water from raids by drought-stricken Western states, a possibility mentioned here last week.

In 2008, when Husted was the Ohio House’s speaker, the General Assembly passed, and Democratic then-Gov. Ted Strickland signed, Ohio’s ratification of the Great Lakes Compact. Then-Rep. Matt Dolan, a Chagrin Falls Republican now a state senator, sponsored the ratification. The compact is an agreement among America’s Great Lake states, and Canada’s Ontario and Quebec, to protect the lakes, which hold “about 21% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water,” according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The Legislative Service Commission reports the Great Lakes compact “prohibits, with certain exceptions, all new or increased diversions of water resources from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin into another watershed.”

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.

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