Attorney General Mike DeWine is talking tough and playing an active role in prosecuting those who have broken the law in Steubenville. That is, of course, his job.
We should expect nothing less from our AG than to prosecute those who intimidate victims and witnesses just like we should expect him to prosecute anyone whose abuses of authority helped contribute to Steubenville’s “rape culture”.
But there’s a cognitive dissonance between DeWine’s media appearances and his legislative history. Compared to Rob Portman–for whom new evidence led to a reevaluation of his policy preferences–Mike DeWine is being suspiciously narrow in his revolt against those who shame rape survivors.
If he were being sincere, he would be moved to question his own political history: DeWine’s “fight for the unborn” has only taken the form of shaming women.
Imagine a Jane Doe in Steubenville who becomes pregnant as a result of being repeatedly raped. The nearest abortion provider is in Pittsburgh. It is a federal crime for anybody but her parents to accompany her.
This law, co-sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine, serves no purpose but to humiliate minors who become pregnant. If her parents are supportive of her decision, then the law is superfluous; if they are unsupportive, the law forces Jane Doe to travel alone.
Now imagine a rape survivor in Lima. Thanks to Mike DeWine, Jane Roe cannot legally access medication abortion in Ohio. As a result of the appeal he filed to the Sixth Circuit, Jane Doe can only access surgical abortion in Ohio.
In 2004, the Ohio legislature passed a law which effectively requires providers to improperly prescribe RU-486. As a result, almost no providers in Ohio are performing medication abortion.
The explicit goal of the 2004 law was to remove the option of medication abortion, thereby subjecting women to comparatively intrusive and humiliating procedures.
As a Senator, DeWine wrote “Laci’s Law” to make the death of a fetus punishable under federal law. This is a law in search of a crime, as Laci Peterson’s murder was successfully prosecuted as a double homicide under California law.
As widely acknowledged, even during the signing ceremony, this law is no more than a “[reaffirmation] that the United States of America is building a culture of life”. One of DeWine’s proudest legislative achievements in his 12 years in the Senate was to make women feel worse when they seek to terminate a pregnancy they can’t carry to term.
Despite his tough approach to Steubenville, DeWine’s past policy stances continue to have an impact on the emotional and physical well-being of all women – especially rape victims.
Why should state and federal governments engage in shaming a rape survivor? Even within an anti-choice context, a rape survivor should not be blamed for seeking an abortion.
What about pregnancies that arise from consensual sex in abusive relationships? Should Jane Doe still be shamed by the state when she seeks to terminate a pregnancy that she cannot carry to term?
And a woman who terminates a pregnancy for the sake of her existing or future children? Should she face humiliation for choosing to do what’s best for her family?
Laws that shame women are immoral if the woman was raped, and they’re still immoral if she wasn’t. DeWine’s stance in Steubenville is jarring because it flies in the face of his lifelong mission, the ultimate impact of which is to shame women.
Mike DeWine will never be in Jane Doe’s shoes. Until he changes his mind about victim-shaming in cases of abortion, then it will be hard to see his actions in Steubenville as anything more than grandstanding.