in

The consequences of Dave Yost’s and other Republicans’ handling of 10-year-old’s rape case: Analysis


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A textbook political adage for elected officials is if you’re going to speak out about something controversial, make sure you’ve got your facts straight. And if you somehow make a mistake, try to limit the damage by owning up to it, or at least shutting up until it blows over.

Attorney General Dave Yost fell short on both counts last week after he went on national TV to help sow doubts about a story about a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who traveled to Indiana in June to get an abortion. The tragic story was confirmed the following day when a Columbus man was arrested and accused of the crime, leading to widespread debate, including criticism of how Yost, as the state’s top law enforcement official, chose to speculate about a sensitive case on cable news.

But will Yost’s and other Ohio Republicans’ handling of the situation hurt them at the ballot box this November? Especially given the public divide surrounding abortion, and state Republicans’ recent track record of political scandals rolling off their backs during election years, it seems unlikely to overshadow other issues like inflation.

But by putting Republicans on the defensive, it seems to, at least for now, be playing a role in shaping the public policy debate over abortion restrictions, which are in uncharted legal and political waters following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn in June of Roe v. Wade, which had offered national protections for abortion for decades.

For a brief recap, Yost’s national involvement in the story began on July 11, when he went on Fox News for a primetime interview to discuss whether or not the incident really happened. The story was first publicly reported by the Indianapolis Star in a July 1 article, quoting an Indianapolis doctor who said she treated the girl after a referral from a colleague in Columbus. As the story gained wider attention, some media critics noted the story was difficult or impossible to confirm, while conservatives noted the doctor’s past public advocacy for abortion rights.

Republicans became especially interested in discrediting the story after Democratic President Joe Biden referenced it on July 9 during a campaign-style stop in Cleveland. Biden cited it as an example of the consequences of the Supreme Court ruling.

Yost leaned into those doubts two days later on Fox News, where the segment kicked off with a chyron saying the story had “major red flags.” And in his remarks, Yost, while holding open the possibility the story could be true, said it was “especially telling” that as the state’s top law-enforcement official, no agency had reported the crime to his office, which plays a major role in investigating rape cases.

The next day, Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana shared a summary of Yost’s interview on social media, calling the story “another lie.”

But on Wednesday, the Columbus Dispatch reported the arrest. Court documents say Gerson Fuentes, 27, confessed to police after he was arrested the day before and that Columbus police were notified of the case on June 22. Jordan deleted his tweet.

When a CNN reporter asked him why he did so, Jordan said he had learned an “illegal alien had committed a heinous crime.”

“I doubted Joe Biden, which is usually a smart thing to do,” Jordan said.

But Yost, rather than show regret for how things had transpired, doubled down on his earlier comments, saying in a round of media interviews that he only was doubting the way the story was initially reported.

“Let’s remember, everybody was talking at the time about abortion politics,” Yost told cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer last week. “My interest was to change that conversation, to talk about the fact that we may have had, or maybe didn’t have, a rapist running on the loose. I never apologize for the truth, and I stand by everything I said.”

Although partisanship and the intensely differing views on abortion will lead some to defend Yost, at best, he looked foolish speculating on national television about a sensitive topic about which he clearly was not informed. At worst, it’s easy for critics to cast him as being callous or even professionally irresponsible, given his office’s work, which includes supporting rape survivors and often getting involved in local criminal cases. Victims’ advocates said Yost’s decision to publicly doubt the story could prevent future victims from coming forward, given the still prevalent social stigma that they may not be believed.

Beyond the individual tragedy at the core of the case, it’s also become a political flashpoint. And the potential public-policy effects of how everything transpired already are becoming apparent.

First, it helped smoke out some clarity on how the medical exemptions in Ohio’s broadly written new heartbeat law, which bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, may apply in real life. Because the law is so new, only going into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, and since no specific medical conditions are explicitly spelled out as exemptions in its written language, it was not previously known how state officials might interpret it. The lack of clarity can make some doctors risk-averse, since breaking the law could cause them to be charged with a felony.

As early as his Monday Fox News appearance, Yost said that the girl could have gotten a legal abortion in Ohio even under the heartbeat law, due to her pregnancy’s medical risks, even if the fetal cardiac activity had begun.

The episode also has helped draw out some comments from Republicans who are setting boundaries on what future abortion restrictions won’t do. Mike Gonidakis, a Republican lobbyist and top Ohio anti-abortion advocate, said during a panel discussion in Columbus on Wednesday that things like in-vitro fertilization and contraception wouldn’t be targeted by state lawmakers in future legislation. That had become an open question after a very conservative Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Gary Click of Sandusky County, had introduced a “personhood” bill that, if passed, would legally define life at the moment of conception. Such a measure, which Click told his fellow lawmakers was written to be intentionally brief and simple, could have wide-reaching legal ramifications.

Finally, it likely will help shape the terms of public debate, as Democrats and abortion-rights advocates point to the consequences of Ohio’s abortion restrictions notably not including an exemption for rape victims. It’s even challenged abortion opponents, with an anti-abortion activist testifying during a Capitol Hill hearing earlier this month that she didn’t consider a 10-year-old getting an abortion actually to be an abortion. Ohio Right to Life, meanwhile, issued a statement that in part, decried the fact that the Columbus girl got one.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers, if they impose a total abortion ban when the legislature reconvenes later this year, certainly will be asked about the Ohio case as they write their law. That may influence what the specific language entails, although Gonidakis said in an interview on Friday he thinks pro-life lawmakers have grown calloused over the years when it comes to how abortion-rights supporters wage their arguments.

“I don’t believe our pro-life elected officials are going to change their position that life begins at conception,” he said. “And we expect our veto-proof majority in the House and Senate will proceed accordingly, regardless of matters that happened recently. All life deserves to be protected, regardless of the circumstances you come into existence.”

But for Yost and Jordan, who are up for re-election this year, might their handling the case cause any real political damage?

Jordan is as close as it gets to politically untouchable in Ohio. He’s won his last four elections by an average of 35 percentage points. His new district, which will be used for the 2022 election only, is even more Republican-leaning than his old one. If there are any long-term political consequences, they only would come if he ever decides to run for statewide office, something he’s considered occasionally but considered to be serious about.

Yost also is favored to win re-election in November against state Rep. Jeff Crossman, a Democrat from Parma. Democrats across the state are bracing for losses this year, if nothing else, due to the historic dynamic that usually benefits the party opposite of that which controls the White House. Yost also has a massive fundraising advantage, with $2.3 million in his campaign bank account – nearly 18 times as much as Crossman’s $150,000.

In the short term, polls have suggested that most Ohioans support abortion rights, but national polls have placed the issue as a lower-tier priority for many voters, below issues like inflation and gun violence.

But Yost is rumored to be among the Republicans considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2024 when the GOP will be looking to defeat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Looking into the future, it’s hard to imagine what the politics surrounding abortion will look like in two years. But it’s not at all hard to see Brown or even one of Yost’s potential primary opponents bringing up the blunder in a debate or an ad.

Republicans have seen other scandals roll off their backs, like the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online charter-school scandal in 2018 and the 2020 corruption scandal surrounding House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law.

But abortion and protecting children are more visceral, hot-button political issues. And Ohio Democrats say the way Yost conducted himself has energized their supporters.

“Both since the Dobbs decision came down and last week in response to Yost’s abhorrent media appearances,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Liz Walters said this week as she called for Yost’s resignation, something he’s certain to ignore. “He kind of stepped right into a pit of his own demise on this, in my opinion. It shows he is callous. It shows he is unfeeling. And it shows he is prioritizing national media appearances over the health and welfare of the citizens he has taken an oath to protect and defend.”



Source link

Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.

                                   

Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.

What do you think?

Written by Politixia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

California Democrats Give Independent Truckers an Impossible Choice – National Review

Why America needs more injustice: An appeal to the uncolored citizens of the world