Access to abortion has become a key issue in Ohio’s race for governor — putting pressure on incumbent GOP Gov. Mike DeWine as he faces challengers who claim he’s soft on the issue, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Ohio reported 20,605 abortions in 2020, a 3% increase from the previous year, according to the state’s Department of Health — and with several abortion clinics closed in recent years, six now offer surgical abortions and another three offer medication abortions, the news outlet reported.
As governor and in past political posts, DeWine has been a supporter of abortion restrictions; his team calls him "the most pro-life governor in Ohio history," according to the Dispatch.
Since taking office, DeWine has signed bills to ban abortion as early as the six-week gestation period, to require aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated, to prevent medication abortions via telemedicine, and to add rules that could close two abortion clinics in the southwest part of the state, the Dispatch reported.
Before taking office, as a state’s attorney general, he led an investigation of Planned Parenthood and argued in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case that businesses shouldn't have to provide birth control under Obamacare that violates their religious beliefs.
"Mike DeWine has always been there on life. He's never wavered, never once in his entire political career," Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, which has not yet endorsed a candidate in the GOP primary, told the Dispatch.
But DeWine's opponents say he hasn't done enough.
The Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio rescinded its endorsement in November 2020 after he appointed a Democrat as health director. Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff now leads the Ohio Department of Health.
Critics also slammed DeWine for allowing abortion clinics to remain open amid the COVID-19 pandemic when the state health department halted elective surgeries and closed many businesses as part of its stay-at-home order.
DeWine’s Republican primary opponent, former Congressman Jim Renacci, slammed the governor’s move, tweeting, “Last year, Mike DeWine declared abortion clinics ‘essential.’ I believe it’s essential we protect the unborn.”
Renacci, who had a 100% pro-life voting record in Congress, has become a favorite of Trump supporters in the state.
With the Supreme Court reviewing a Mississippi abortion ban that could send the decision back to the states, abortion opponents are pushing for a "trigger law" that would ban abortion in Ohio if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the news outlet reported.
DeWine hasn’t endorsed the bill, saying it’s "prudent … to wait until we have instructions from the United States Supreme Court," the news outlet reported.
Meanwhile, Democrats are also fighting over the issue in their own gubernatorial primary. Former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, a Catholic who said he was "pro-life," now asserts he’d be a pro-choice governor, the Dispatch reported.
Advocates for abortion access, including Pro-Choice Ohio and EMILY’s List, have endorsed Cranley's primary opponent, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who’s reminding voters: "Abortion is on the ballot in 2022," the Dispatch reported.
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