Editorial Roundup: Ohio

Cleveland Plain Dealer. July 17, 2022.

Editorial: Any post-Roe Ohio abortion law should be humane, specific and enforceable

No sooner will the count be in for Ohio’s Nov. 8 election than the General Assembly will return to Columbus. All but certain is that abortion will top the lame-duck session’s agenda in in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

Net effect of that ruling: There is no constitutional right to abortion, and the states are, in practice, free to regulate abortion as they see fit. What remains to be decided is whether any legislation in Ohio will be clear, reasonable, specific and enforceable -- as it needs to be to avoid undue hardship for the state’s women and girls, and to prevent dangerous and potentially life-threatening confusion and uncertainty among Ohio’s medical professionals. Medical decisions about the life of the mother often must be made quickly in emergency situations; physicians can’t be losing critical time while weighing whether the procedures they are contemplating or performing are breaking the law.

Given the General Assembly’s anti-abortion Republican majorities, and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s careerlong opposition to abortion, there can be no doubt that, on the strength of the Dobbs ruling, the legislature will (further) act to limit abortion in Ohio. The question isn’t whether the General Assembly will act – it’s how.

Whatever the choices the General Assembly makes, it’s essential that Ohio legislators draw lessons from the mistakes other states have made in legislating on abortion.

One mistake is to write laws that are overly punitive. Legislating with a broad brush serves neither the foes of abortion nor those who consider it a right. Nothing would be more likely to create doubt of a law’s fairness, in the minds not only of voters but also in the minds of Ohio judges and juries, than Ohio abortion legislation that’s vague, or too broad, or too harsh.

Any legislation the General Assembly adopts must be specific about what’s permissible and what’s not – clearly specific. Likewise, any legislation must clearly confer discretion on prosecuting attorneys as to what cases to pursue, what charges to make, and what criteria to use in considering whether and when to seek convictions.

Of critical importance: The law the General Assembly passes must provide for what’s called a “rebuttable presumption” that a physician, in performing an abortion, was seeking to protect the life of the mother. That means that in an abortion case, the assumption would be that a physician correctly exercised his or her judgment. If the state alleges a physician didn’t, prosecutors would have to rebut that presumption – that is, offer evidence to contradict it.

It is critically important, too, that any anti-abortion legislation be framed in reasonable terms, no easy feat considering the emotional and ethical perspectives associated with the issue. The fact is that whether one opposes abortion or not, anti-abortion laws should not overreach.

For example, an anti-abortion law that goes to extremes would not only be unjust but would also, in the end, likely prove unenforceable – the last thing that anti-abortion voters would want. One example: Attempting to forbid Ohioans to travel out of state to obtain abortions. Another example: Attempting to forbid Ohioans to obtain, whether in Ohio or not, contraceptive drugs and devices, including emergency contraception products. The use of pharmaceutical contraceptive products likely has increased as the number of abortions obtained in Ohio by Ohioans has steeply declined – 19,438 Ohioans obtained abortions in Ohio in 2020 versus 26,322 Ohioans in 2010, a 26% decline over ten years, according to state data.

A key aim of the General Assembly should be clarity. As a practical matter, a physician is a patient’s navigator in and through health care. But no navigator can function without maps and charts. That’s what the legislature should strive for – a clear legal itinerary for physicians whose hands a sloppily drafted law might otherwise tie. A physician wouldn’t be human if she or he didn’t fear legal liability for taking good-faith medical decisions made murky by badly drafted laws.

Another one: humane exceptions, beyond the life and health of the mother, including for young children raped by strangers or family members. Why were there such efforts to discredit the story of a 10-year-old Ohio girl repeatedly raped, other than a recognition that inflexible abortion prohibitions that prolong the harm and suffering of children could backfire and undercut trust in the law.

These, then, should be the General Assembly’s watchwords in seeking to draft abortion legislation in the wake of the Dobbs decision – Clarity. Humanity. Enforceability. And fairness.

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Youngstown Vindicator. July 18, 2022.

Editorial: Doing what’s best for people must be priority

Across the country, public officials and social media trolls revealed their true natures in the most nauseating of ways as the story of a 10-year-old Ohio girl became national news. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, Ohio was one of those states in which “near-total restrictions,” to use the Associated Press’s description, went into effect almost instantly.

So, the 10-year-old girl, who had been raped and was pregnant, had to travel to Indiana for an abortion. A doctor’s lament about the situation went viral and Ohio politicians got ugly.

“Another lie. Anyone surprised?” U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted.

Even Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost felt compelled to tell a national news network that he had not heard “a whisper” from law enforcement in Ohio about any reports or arrests made in connection with such a case.

Forget about your opinions on Roe v. Wade. The merits of that ruling have nothing to do with the degree to which their reaction to the possible rape and impregnating of this 10-year-old girl — TEN! — reveal the horrifying, aggressive and extraordinarily backward thinking of some of those who are charged with making and enforcing our laws.

And yes, law enforcement was working on arresting and charging an Ohio man for the rape of that little girl. Her story was not a lie. Much as they appear to wish it wasn’t true — that such things simply don’t happen in Ohio and all over the country — our elected officials are doing us a disservice if they are so desperate not just to bury their heads in the sand but go on the offensive after tragedies like this one.

Angry public voices such as Jordan’s show us a lot about those folks’ understanding of the real world, and what happens to real people. It shows us how they react when that nasty real world comes in contact with the ideology they’re not really ready to defend. At best it is irrational and reckless. At worst it is proof voters have a decision to make about elected officials who are working toward a purpose that looks nothing like what is best for Ohioans and Americans.

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Sandusky Register. July 12, 2022.

Editorial: Costly election happens soon

Yes, there really is a second primary election in Ohio on Aug. 2. Yes, it’s a statewide race. And yes, it’s going to cost taxpayers an extra $20 million to pay for it. In Erie County alone it cost $200,000.

Early voting has already begun and the ballots are for legislative races only for the Ohio Statehouse, the place where the folly and waste of this election can be traced back to. It’s also where the blame can be affixed. Majorities in the House and Senate defied the state’s constitution, which includes amendments overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters years ago to end the practice of gerrymandering. This was supposed to end unfair elections in the state.

Republicans were not able to do that, instead developing new gerrymandered district maps, which is the exact thing voters were against. Leading the charge were the majority members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Auditor Keith Faber, House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman.

This has dragged out the process, and it comes at a cost. The $20 million for this election is reason enough to question why the wishes of the people were disregarded. There are many needs for services in our states — schools, cities and counties come to mind — but these funds being tied to an unnecessary election is a failure to act in the interest of the public.

This is an unreasonable folly and one that should be remembered. Interests of the public should always rise of those of their party. We’ll see if the voters remember this failure when it’s time to choose those who elect them.

When do I vote?

More than half (54%) the respondents to a survey at sanduskyregister.com didn’t know about the Aug. 2 primary election.

But a sizable chunk (41%) did know about the primary election next month.

Most votes in the survey selected November for when the next election would be. The general election — in which ballots include races, issues and initiatives for local, state and federal governments — will be in November.

It’s not rare to see an August election, but normally Ohio’s primary elections — when political parties select nominees for local, state and federal races — is in March or in May.

This year, a second primary was scheduled because lawmakers failed to keep up with a schedule for redistricting and ultimately failed to follow the law that prohibited the majority from drawing district maps that give their party unfair advantages in elections.

This primary election is to select party nominees in districts the state Supreme Court found were unconstitutional. That includes the 89th District, the 57th, and the 58th districts currently held by three Republicans, D.J. Swearingen, Huron, Dick Stein, Norwalk, and Gary Click, Vickery.

All seats in the Ohio House are on the ballot for party nominees; who will hold the office beginning in 2023 will be decided in November.

The survey posted at the home page of sanduskyregister.com from July 3-9. Here are the results:

When is the next statewide election in Ohio?

√ 54% — 346 votes

November

0% — Zero votes

January

41% — 263 votes

August

1%— 6 votes

February

4% — 26 votes

I don’t know

Total Votes: 641

END