For decades, many politicians eagerly pledged support for ending safe and legal abortion, knowing that Roe v. Wade rendered those pledges meaningless. That all changed with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh for a life-time appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

With Justice Kavanaugh cementing the court’s conservative majority, Roe will be overturned or gutted.  The court won’t automatically make abortion illegal. Instead, it’s expected to find a case that returns decisions about its legality to the states, where a patchwork of existing laws already makes abortion difficult to access in Ohio and many other states.

Recently we have seen how far anti-abortion politicians will go to criminalize abortion—including ridiculing survivors of sexual assault. The Kavanaugh hearings surfaced painful memories of sexual harassment and assaults for many of us. Though it is daunting, we must channel our pain and anger into action.

Nov. 6 is a landmark election for reproductive freedom in Ohio and who wins the governor’s race will determine whether our reproductive rights stay are taken from us.  Republican Mike DeWine has pledged to criminalize abortion if he is elected governor. Democrat Richard Cordray promises to protect access to abortion and contraception.

Along with electing a new governor, Ohio will elect a new attorney general. Both offices are vital to preserving abortion access and reversing the setbacks Ohio has endured under Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General DeWine. Ohio has gone from 16 abortion clinics to eight, and a recent court ruling could force the Dayton Area’s remaining clinic to close. Ohio also has seen 20 new restrictions on reproductive health care under Kasich and DeWine.

DeWine is so eager to outlaw abortion that he’s pledged to ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. He would likely go even further by signing House Bill 565, which would outlaw all abortions, without exception, subjecting anyone who receives or provides one to murder charges. Either bill would force tens of thousands of women each year to continue pregnancies against their will–even the critically ill, and rape and incest survivors—or face the death penalty.

Although the Ohio Attorney General has important powers to protect consumers, DeWine is under fire for ignoring a complaint from a nonprofit watchdog, the Campaign for Accountability. The June 5 complaint asks his office to investigate deceptive practices common at taxpayer-financed crisis pregnancy centers. The anti-abortion movement has successfully lobbied for expansion of these centers that deceptively market themselves as health clinics, then use misinformation to try and deter women from choosing an abortion.

The complaint accuses Elizabeth’s New Life Center (ENLC), in Dayton, and Heartbeat of Toledo of violating the Ohio laws that ban false advertising and unsavory business practices.  ENLC operates seven fake clinics in the Dayton area, which it calls Women’s Centers of Ohio.

People looking for abortion information online are often led to the websites of these fake clinics, which don’t support or provide abortion care but hide that information deep in the site. A NARAL intern went undercover at a Dayton center and an employee told her that complications from an abortion are common and if she developed any no local doctor would treat her. Neither is true.

Contrast DeWine’s inaction on the complaint with his quick assault on Planned Parenthood after it was falsely accused of illegal trafficking in fetal tissue. DeWine rushed to court to sue Planned Parenthood. Ohio taxpayers paid nearly $50,000 to settle his legal blunder.

Ohio faces a reproductive health care crisis. Maternal and infant mortality are rising. The rate for Black women and their children is twice that of their white counterparts. Hispanic women face twice the risk of developing cervical cancer. While barriers to abortion are severe, paid maternity leave and affordable childcare are grossly inadequate.

We must reverse this downward spiral by stopping DeWine from becoming governor of Ohio and David Yost from becoming attorney general. Yost joined DeWine at the press conference to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of breaking the law. Steve Dettelbach, the Democrat running for attorney general, has promised to support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.

This is not a drill. Our lives, our rights and our futures are on the line.


Kellie Copeland is the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio