A televised debate on Ohio’s Issue 1 about creating a constitutional “right” to abortion-on-demand until birth gave pro-life advocates ample opportunity to dispel misinformation about the controversial measure, as an abortion activist misled viewers more than a dozen times in less than an hour.
The debate, recorded on October 11 but airing this week at various times, was hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission in collaboration with Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, and Spectrum News. The exchange allowed official representatives from both sides of the issue to engage in a moderated, respectful exchange of views. But the abortion advocate did not respect the truth, her opponents say.
The spokesperson for Issue 1, Desiree Tims, “lied 14 times about the ability of women to receive life-saving care under Ohio’s protective laws, which limit painful late-term abortions and abortions when a baby’s heartbeat is detected,” said SBA Pro-Life America, which criticized the activist for “falsely claiming that women cannot receive miscarriage care and must flee the state or endanger their lives should they have a pregnancy complication.”
“Unfortunately, right now we have an extreme abortion ban law on the books … with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother,” claimed Tims, a former aide to Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio).
“Six weeks — you cannot access abortion care after that,” asserted Tims, who leads Innovation Ohio, which dubs itself “Ohio’s Progressive Politics and Policy Hub.” She is also listed as a lecturer in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Ohio State University, where she lists her pronouns as “she/her.”
In reality, Ohio’s six-week Heartbeat Law — which contains exceptions for the life of the mother — remains suspended while under review by the Ohio Supreme Court. That reverted the state’s law to the pre-Dobbs status quo.
“We have a 22-week ban today, and there are exceptions,” corrected Mehet Cooke, an Indian-born Republican attorney, political strategist, and Newsmax commentator who served as spokeswoman for Protect Women Ohio. Both Cooke and Tims ran unsuccessful campaigns for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2020.
“The ACLU is peddling misinformation about contraception, which is available in Ohio; [about] miscarriage care, which is available,” said Cooke. “Anyone who says we don’t have access to contraception, [care for] miscarriages, or abortion at 22 weeks is flat-out lying to Ohioans.”
Tims claimed her assertions were accurate, because “pro-life politicians all across the country have introduced legislation that bans or restricts birth control,” a reference to bills that oppose drugs that work as abortifacients. She then stated that unnamed Ohio legislators expressed “a fond interest” in banning “miscarriage care.” The moderators asked for no further elaboration.
Tims’ sleight-of-hand may harm women, who falsely believe they are legally forbidden from seeking medical help after a miscarriage, pro-life advocates say. “Every pro-life law in the country allows necessary and timely medical treatment to save the life of a pregnant woman in an emergency,” said Kelsey Pritchard, a spokeswoman for Protect Women Ohio Action. “Pro-abortion activists in Ohio are spreading shameless misinformation about the 22-week and heartbeat laws, causing confusion amongst the public that puts women’s lives at risk.”
Much of the debate centered around just how wide Issue 1 would open Ohio to the increasingly conjoined abortion and transgender industries. “This amendment allows for full-term, late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion,” said Cooke, who said Issue 1 should be opposed by anyone who supports reasonable limits on abortion, whether they consider themselves “pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in-between.” If the amendment would bar extremely late abortions, “Why didn’t [amendment authors the ACLU] define viability?”
Instead, Issue 1 “allows the abortionist to determine” viability, said Cooke — a decision they are likely to twist for their financial benefit.
The abortion industry, past and present, is the driving force behind the amendment. Among the top donors is Martin Haskell, the abortionist who invented partial birth abortion, “He has a business plan, because he wants to continue performing partial-birth abortions” in Ohio again after Issue 1’s passage, said Cooke. The amendment’s broad terms would favor his business model, as Haskell has admitted he “routinely performs this procedure on all patients 20 through 24” and stated that 80% of late-term abortions were “purely elective.”
The two sides clashed over the fact that the amendment does not say “adult” but instead speaks of individuals, irrespective of age. The term “reproductive decisions” goes well beyond the right to abortion.
“If this is truly about abortion, they would have used the word ‘woman’ instead of ‘individual.’ They’re taking away parental consent,” Cooke warned. Tims countered that “the law of the land” currently requires parental consent. However, the constitutional amendment would change the law for Ohioans.
Tims later seemingly admitted Issue 1 would give minors the “right” to abortion and other “reproductive decisions,” possibly including transgender surgeries. “That’s what the ‘Yes’ campaign is all about: Making sure people can decide what’s best for their health care.” (Emphasis in original.) Cooke said the ambiguity is deliberate.
“The ACLU deliberately wrote a very broad amendment,” said Cooke, who is seven-and-a-half months pregnant. “They had every opportunity to write a clear amendment, and they didn’t.”
Tims similarly refused to define the meaning of the term “health” in the amendment, refusing to rule out the possibility that it could apply to “financial health.” Cooke noted the Supreme Court had already provided an expansive definition of health in Doe v. Bolton, the 1973 companion case to Roe v. Wade.
The implications of the overly broad amendment could prove more wide-reaching than Ohio voters expect. Cooke asked Ohioans to look at Michigan, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) supports repealing a law requiring abortionists to ask a woman if she’s being abused. Michigan’s proposed Reproductive Health Act, which is advancing through the Michigan legislature, eliminates reporting requirements and laws requiring abortion personnel to ask if the woman is being coerced into abortion. Whitmer called the bill “commonsense legislation” authorized by the fact that “Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to put abortion rights in our state constitution back in November.” Similarly, Tims said the pro-abortion Issue 1 amendment would lead to Ohio enacting “commonsense laws.” But Cooke retorted that Issue 1 puts “women at risk if we don’t vote no, because we will get rid of all our commonsense health and safety standards.”
The abortion industry cannot be trusted to protect victims of rape, sexual abuse, or human trafficking, said Cooke. She raised the case of a 14-year-old Ohio girl who had an abortion after being abused by her coach, who posed as her father at Planned Parenthood. As The Washington Stand reported:
“John Haller, a 21-year-old soccer coach, began abusing a 13-year-old eighth grader in 2003, getting her pregnant shortly after she turned 14. He took her to Planned Parenthood for an abortion, posing as both her stepbrother and her father to authorize the abortion. Planned Parenthood sued all the way to the state Supreme Court to deny her parents the right to view redacted medical records, which could prove the facility never contacted authorities and possibly engaged in a pattern of concealing minors’ sexual assaults.”
“Ohio be warned: The tragic consequences of Michigan’s Prop 3 are coming to fruition less than a year after passage,” said Amy Natoce, press secretary for Protect Women Ohio. “What is happening to our neighbors will certainly happen here if Issue 1 passes.”
Religion also made an appearance in the debate, when a viewer in Cleveland asked: “As an atheist, why should I be bound by the dictates of someone else’s conscience?”
“This amendment is not about a woman’s abortion, specifically. It’s broader than that,” said Cooke. “‘Reproductive decisions’ mean cross-hormone therapy, transgender surgeries, painful surgeries we don’t want our children to go through today.”
“Everyone has a different moral compass,” Cooke continued. “We shouldn’t have a radical amendment that allows any of those decisions to happen outside parental notification.”
“I’m a person of faith,” said pro-abortion activist Tims before mentioning health disparities for pregnant black women. Cooke responded that 13% of Ohio’s population is black, yet abortionists commit 48% of abortions on black babies.
In all, pro-life advocates said the debate went well by exposing the misinformation behind Issue 1.
“I just want the other side to be honest with Ohioans,” said Cooke. “Our moral compass and our families are at stake.”
Early in-person voting and absentee voting are already underway. Absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than November 6 to be counted in the November 7 election.
You can watch the full debate here.
Reprinted with permission from The Washington Stand by Ben Johnson.