Reif: Gov. DeWine, you are pro-death

Jordan Reif, Staff Columnist

My mentor throughout high school had a friend—a nurse anesthetist in Florida—who was a traditional conservative Republican. He is a Catholic, was an Air Commando in Vietnam and a former San Antonio police officer. Yet on one of the most controversial issues, he crosses the aisle to the other side.

One night in the early 1970s, while on call in a hospital in upstate New York, he was summoned to the operating room (OR) for an emergency exploratory laparotomy—an incision into the abdomen to determine the cause of pain or another existing problem. During a pre-operative examination, the patient was noted to be a teacher in her mid-twenties who had become pregnant and—as this was the pre-Roe era—was forced to seek a back-street abortion. She was in the OR that day because the abortion had been botched, leaving her uterus and abdomen perforated: whatever tool had been used to try to terminate the pregnancy had pushed through her uterus and into her abdomen.

As the nurse anesthetist prepared to induce the patient’s anesthesia, she stopped him, looked up and begged him not to let her die. He responded, promising to help save her.

This young African-American teacher, who was shaping the lives of children and trying to improve the world the best she could, would die on the OR table.

The nurse anesthetist, years later, said to my mentor, “I am a pretty conservative man. But I will fight like a bastard to prevent another young woman from dying as she died. Consider me pro-choice.”

This man, disregarding the historical terminology of abortion rights, is pro-life. He cares about the life of the mother and the fetus, certainly more than any of those who call themselves “pro-life” by today’s standards. This includes Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine.

Last Thursday, DeWine signed the “heartbeat bill” into law, banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Since its famous 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade has been a divisive and highly partisan issue across the United States. Under progressive politicians, the sovereign right of a woman to control her body expands, and under conservative leaders, restrictive, anti-abortion policies are pushed through.

As a result, states that are consistently “red,” such as Texas, Alabama and Arkansas, have very strict abortion laws and do everything in their power to restrict a woman’s right to choose. Ohio can now be added to this list. Many of these states are also hoping that, with the recent appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the bench of the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, giving states the right to completely outlaw abortion.

As Roe v. Wade is still a constitutionally protected decision, conservative states have to be more creative in their efforts to restrict women’s reproductive rights. States intimidate physicians and patients, close clinics that offer women’s health services and limit insurance coverage, on top of an abortion ban after about 20 weeks of gestation. Ohio, among these states, was nicknamed the “hotbed innovator of abortion rights restrictions” by a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project.

Last week, DeWine helped Ohio live up to its nickname by banning abortions as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, before many women even realize they are pregnant. Obstetricians will often not even see women to confirm pregnancy until eight weeks.  

When we introduce anti-abortion policies into our states, we are signing death sentences for hundreds of women. Restrictive policies will not stop women from terminating a pregnancy; rather it will put their lives at higher risk. Conversely, expanding abortion policies by regulating abortion services and ensuring proper qualifications of the provider will not increase the number of abortions performed. The Guttmacher Institute, a non-governmental organization dedicated to researching sexual and reproductive health and rights, found that for 1,000 women aged 15-44, there were 37 abortions in countries with restrictive abortion laws versus 34 in countries with accessible abortion services.

However, analyzing the tendency of abortions only in these two ways is an oversimplification of the issue. Criminalization of abortion exacerbates economic hardships and the destabilization of families. Women who have been denied an abortion also face worse mental health and psychological stability, have a more negative outlook on their future and are potentially putting themselves and their children at greater risk if they have to stay with a violent partner. Meanwhile, women who have access to abortion services are able to devote more financial and emotional resources to their children.

I know some people, even close friends and family, who are adamantly opposed to abortion. And, with this, I have no problem. The problem arises when they try to use their voice and actions to restrict someone else’s.

While signing the fetal heartbeat bill, DeWine said, “The government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end.”

If our governor truly meant those words, then he would dedicate time and resources to women’s health, contraceptives and a holistic sexual education in public schools. He would ensure basic health care as a right, including coverage of birth control and abortion services, provide daycare, perinatal and maternity services to recent mothers and children and fight for a fair educational system.

If he truly wanted to protect all life, he would fight beside us for justice on all of these issues, and more, to balance the scale and provide all children and mothers with basic rights.  

As long as he continues to fail at all of these things, DeWine is pro-death.