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Abortion could have played a key role in Ohio's gubernatorial campaign

Dan Konik

The leak of a U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion to overturn the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade came one night before Ohio’s primary, and it may have played a key role in how Ohioans voted on Election Day.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has signed every abortion bill that has come to his desk, including the so-called "Heartbeat Bill." It bans abortion at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

DeWine's predecessor, former Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, had refused to sign the bill into law. Like many abortion laws of late, the "Heartbeat Bill" was put on hold by a federal court. He also signed a bill that requires fetal remains be cremated or buried. That has also been put on hold by courts. And just three days before the primary, he gave more public money to crisis pregnancy centers that abortion advocates say are being used to lure pregnant women in but then dissuade them from getting an abortion.

"We have some amazing pregnancy centers out there who are as devoted as we are to making sure every child, the most vulnerable children, the most vulnerable members of our society have the opportunity to grow up," DeWine said.

DeWine was endorsed by Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group though some of his opponents had backing from smaller anti-abortion groups. DeWine has a strong record of opposing abortion, even back to his days as Ohio's attorney general and before that as a U.S. senator.

"It’s something we care very deeply about," DeWine says.

Democratic nominee Nan Whaley also has a long track record on the other side of the issue. She often spoke on the campaign trail that she's been consistent in her views that abortion should be legal and it's a decision that should be left to the pregnant woman herself.

She regularly pointed out the fact that her opponent in the race, former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who says he's for abortion rights now, was not always so. Whaley was endorsed by major abortion rights advocates including Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, Pro-Choice Ohio, and other groups promoting women's issues.

When asked whether she thinks the election eve news about the court's draft opinion could have worked in her favor, Whaley said she thinks it might have motivated voters who want to protect abortion rights.

“I think they were louder about it and pushed the button harder, right. So they were planning on coming out for us. There was definitely a conversation about voting for us and a lot more energy behind it,” Whaley said.

When the two candidates face off this fall, they will pose stark choices for voters on this subject. Polls throughout the years have consistently shown Ohioans and Americans favor abortion rights, at least in some cases.

But Republican state lawmakers are proposing more abortion restrictions that don't have exceptions for rape or incest. Abortion advocates say passage of those bills could pose dangers to the health and lives of pregnant women. But it's possible Republicans, which now dominate the Ohio Legislature, could end up with a supermajority that can override a governor’s veto.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.