Respect, essential dignity in the abortion debate

Even so, public opinion, in Ohio as elsewhere, is far from unanimous as to whether abortion should always be illegal or whether there is a certain number of “x” weeks (during a pregnancy ) before which abortion should be legal or certain “y” factors (medical or criminal) to allow it.

Then there’s this – the Statehouse’s imbalance in politics between women and men. According to the census, Ohio’s population is 50.7% female. But the General Assembly has a male majority, and more. According to the Legislative Services Committee, the percentage of women members of the General Assembly, elected in November 2020, was 31% – agreed, apparently a new high, but still nearly 20 percentage points below the 50 percentage point, 7% statewide.

Additionally, after 219 years of statehood, Ohio has had only one House Speaker, Reynoldsburg Republican Jo Ann Davidson (1995 to 2000) and a female Senate Majority Leader, Cleveland Heights Democrat Margaret Mahoney (in 1949 and 1950). (Mahoney’s position was equivalent to today’s Senate Speaker.)

In other words, at the end of this year, a male-majority legislature led by two men will likely act to regulate women’s reproductive health in a female-majority state. If that doesn’t require respectful and dignified Statehouse committee hearings and floor debate, nothing does.

Granted, respect and dignity are hard qualities to expect and even harder to exhibit at what sometimes seems like a colossal Columbus fraternity party. But they are essential when it comes to addressing a subject as sensitive as abortion.

BIG NO SURPRISE: For the second time, the Ohio Supreme Court last week overturned, in a 4-3 decision, the congressional districts that Ohio Republicans drew for this year’s election.

The decision makes clear, as it has for some time, that the ballot questions Ohios passed in 2015 and 2018 to prevent rigged districts were well-intentioned but flawed. A shortcoming is that the measures required more specific wording on the measure of equity

The second, and most important, flaw is allowing members of the Ohio General Assembly to help draw new districts—for the United States General Assembly or House. Letting lawmakers participate is the very definition of conflict of interest, which explains the mess Ohio finds itself in today.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at [email protected].

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