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Where do Mike DeWine and Nan Whaley stand on the details of future abortion proposals?

Protesters hold signs at an abortion rights rally in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday June 26, 2022
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Protesters hold signs at an abortion rights rally in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday June 26, 2022

The nominees for Ohio governor have made abortion a top campaign issue, but when it comes down to details, it's unclear how far either would go to protect abortion rights or expand restrictions.

The political landscape has changed drastically in the last week with the U.S. Supreme Court stripping the constitutional right to abortion and the immediate instatement of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban.

Several public opinion polls over the years have reported that about six in 10 people support abortion rights in some or most cases. A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 61% of Americans say the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will make them more likely to vote in November’s general election.

Those polls generally show little support for an all-out ban on abortions or an all-out legalization of abortion without some exceptions.

Nan Whaley, Democratic nominee for Ohio governor, said she will endorse a proposed ballot initiative to support legal abortion rights in Ohio. While Gov. Mike DeWine, Republican nominee for Ohio governor, said he will support legislation to further ban abortions.

Democrats in the Ohio Legislature, as well as groups that support legal abortion, said they would like to see a ballot issue that would enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio constitution.

But that initiative is just in the planning stages right now.

There are several questions orbiting both the potential ballot issue to codify abortion rights and the proposals to expand abortion bans; and where exactly DeWine and Whaley stand on those details.

How far will DeWine and Whaley go?

Over the weekend, DeWine told a gathering of anti-abortion activists that he will do "all he can" to ban abortion in Ohio. But on Monday, when asked how far he's ready to go to do that, he was reluctant to indicate whether he'd support the full bans now under consideration in the legislature.

Those Republican proposals do not allow exceptions for rape or incest, and place strict parameters on doctors who perform an abortion if the life of the pregnant person is at risk. Those doctors could still be charged with a crime and would have to mount an affirmative defense to prove the conditions under which the abortions were performed. Doctors have said that will put pregnant people in danger as doctors are forced to wait longer to perform abortions.

"Look, there's a lot of discussion, a lot of debate going on across this country. I don't have to tell you that. It's certainly been on people's minds. People are expressing their opinions. This is a political process. This is what takes place and what should take place," DeWine said.

There are also some lawmakers who want to propose bills to prevent abortion pills from being shipped to people in Ohio or make it illegal for pregnant people to travel to other states for abortions – as well as make it illegal for those who assist in that effort.

Some lawmakers have introduced legislation predicated on the basis that life begins at fertilization, not conception. DeWine declined to add more comment when pressed for specifics about legislation he would support.

"The legislature isn't even going to come back until November so we'll deal with it then," DeWine said after a bill signing.

Whaley said she supports abortion rights and has been fighting for them for years, most recently as the mayor of Dayton. She said as governor, she'll veto future abortion bans and will support an effort to allow voters to enshrine legal abortion rights into the state constitution.

"The only way we are going to protect this – because of gerrymandering and the extremists in the legislature – is to elect a Democratic governor who will fight to protect these rights and then make sure that we take it to the ballot and that we have the power to be able to do that. We can do that a lot easier and a lot more effectively frankly if we have a Democratic governor leading that effort, " Whaley said.

That proposed constitutional ballot issue has yet to be drafted. It is unclear whether it will codify Roe v. Wade or whether it will go further and wipe out some of the many restrictions that have been put in place by state lawmakers throughout the past few decades. Those regulations include age restrictions, mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women seeking abortions, and a ban on abortions after a prenatal diagnosis of down syndrome.

Whaley also didn’t spell out specifics when she was pressed on what she would support in a constitutional amendment.

"It's very simple. We want Roe. We want the rights we had on Thursday," Whaley said.

Whaley said Democrats have not been in charge of the state legislature and the governor's office in Ohio for 30 years, so they haven't had the chance to pass legislation that would allow abortion rights in the Buckeye State.

At this point, there are no debates scheduled between now and Election Day November 8.

DeWine declined to be in a debate with his Republican challengers for the May primary. DeWine did agree to debating Richard Cordray, Democratic former gubernatorial nominee, during the 2018 election.

Whaley said she wants to debate DeWine and looks forward to debating these issues in further detail.

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.