Abortion stance leads to tense fight between Statehouse candidates Dean, Duffee

Duffee, a doctor, slams incumbent Dean’s comments about women dying in childbirth because of their lifestyle

Democratic Ohio Statehouse candidate Jim Duffee, a doctor, fired back at GOP opponent Bill Dean, after incumbent State Rep. Dean made comments to the Dayton Daily News that women face “no great risk of dying” from pregnancy, and that America’s high maternal mortality rate is a result of mothers’ “lifestyle” choices, as it relates to abortion issues.

Dean previously told the Dayton Daily News that women face “no great risk of dying from pregnancy,” and defended his comments in an interview Thursday.

“Pregnancy is a natural thing that women are made for. That’s the way God made them,” Dean said. “The myth is that it is dangerous; it’s no more dangerous than living every day.”

“I’m not a physician. But I would imagine, a lot of times, it’s the lifestyle of the lady that’s having the pregnancy. We also have the most obese people in the whole world. It’s just individual cases,” Dean added.

The United States has one of, if not the highest maternal mortality rates among developed nations, a 2019 study by the Commonwealth Fund placing it more than twice that of most other high-income nations. The risk of pregnancy-related death worsened during the pandemic, climbing to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, according to data from the Center for Disease Control.

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Duffee, a retired pediatrician and Dean’s challenger for the District 71 seat of the Ohio House of Representatives, hit back at Dean, the owner of a plumbing company, saying his comments indicate “an ignorance that’s troubling in a public official.”

“Although most pregnancies are joyous occasions, pregnancy is a dangerous time for women,” Duffee said. “The Republican candidate’s lack of understanding of this issue reveals his lack of interest in solving a problem that affects many families he wants to represent.”

“I can respect him having that worldview for his own family, but he should not be representing us and the people, who need someone in that position who looks at the data, pays attention to that data, and makes decisions based on that data,” Duffee said. “What we’re talking about is a serious problem and there are evidence-based interventions to solve them.”

Dean argued that abortion has its own risks, saying the true numbers of abortion-related deaths were hidden by “crooks and liars,” and citing women he knew who had suffered mental health issues after getting an abortion. In 2018, there were 17.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States according to the Commonwealth Fund, compared to 0.41 deaths per 100,000 reported legal abortions in the same year, according to the CDC.

“The heathen for millennia murdered unborn babies. If we do that, we’re just as heathen as they are,” Dean said.

Dean also asserted that most abortions are done for convenience, a claim Duffee pushed back against.

“Late trimester gestational abortions are almost never by convenience,” Duffee said. “They’re almost always related to life-threatening conditions for the mother or the baby, or severe chromosomal and genetic malformation that places mother and baby in danger.”

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Duffee said Ohio’s current abortion laws are also causing pregnant people to suffer needlessly. Ohio’s abortion ban only has three exceptions: to prevent the death of the mother; when there is serious risk of “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant mother;” and in cases of ectopic pregnancies.

However, doctors across the state have said the legal gray area surrounding the ban may lead doctors to delay life-saving treatment until one of these conditions is more clearly met, in order to avoid prosecution.

“Maternal mortality will increase with the abortion ban,” Duffee said. “Currently, if a healthy young woman comes in, her fetus is at 18 weeks, and her water breaks, that fetus is unsalvageable. It will not survive. Currently, the only way to save her life is to wait until she’s deathly ill.”

“The government should not be in that decision,” Duffee added. “The more the government is in it, the more likely we will cause harm.”

In the district voting maps being used for the November 2022 election, District 71 runs from southern Clark County, through central and eastern Greene County, to all of Clinton County. Though the maps drawn by the GOP-led redistricting committee were ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled that just for this year, they would be used anyway.

Duffee argued that the current District 71 is highly gerrymandered, and that unfair maps will cause voters to feel as if their vote doesn’t matter.

“This district was designed to protect Bill Dean, to allow for Republicans to represent this district,” he said. “Unless we can get fair maps, we’re not going to get a responsive and accountable legislature. They will continue to pass extreme bills that don’t reflect the will of the people.”

Dean disagreed with claims his district is gerrymandered.

“When the Democrats do it, it’s fine. When the Republicans do it, it’s against the law and it’s terrible,” Dean said. “That’s the way the game is played. Whoever wins gets to redistrict the way they want.”

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