Thoughts on Ohio’s Election Day

Thoughts on Ohio’s Election Day November 7, 2023

a drawing of a fetus attached to a placenta
image via Pixabay

Today is election day.

Today, Election Day 2023,  is the last day for Ohioans to vote on Issue One, which will make null any previous laws banning abortion up until viability (and also birth control, miscarriage care and fertility treatments); and also for Issue Two which will legalize cannabis with a nice fat sales tax. It’s about the most consequential state election I can remember.

I don’t know when you’re reading this, but I’m not going to hit “publish” until I leave to run my errands and get Adrienne from school on November Seventh, so most people won’t see it before they vote. I’m doing that because I actually don’t know what you should do about Issue One.  I knew that when I got my ballot at the department of elections last week, I could fill in the bubble for a “yes” on  Issue Two with a clean conscience. I know enough people in Ohio who use cannabis for their chronic illnesses that I wanted to save them the couple hundred they have to pay to get a medical license every year under the current laws. I know a lot of good uses for that sales tax. Deciding to just make it legal was an easy choice. But I knew that, whatever I put down for Issue One, I would hate myself afterwards, and I was right.

I feel unclean just looking at that part of the ballot.

Here are the thoughts that keep chasing each other in my mind:

Pro-choice Christians try to use me as a mascot because I criticize the pro-life movement so often, but the fact is, I can’t bring myself to agree with them. I believe that there are two persons in every pregnancy: a mother and a baby. And both of those persons are infinitely loved by God, and both have dignity, and both deserve consideration.

I also have come to believe, as I’ve mentioned before, that the official Catholic line on what exactly counts as the sin of killing a baby through abortion and what doesn’t isn’t drawn quite right. If we really believed in the principle of double effect the way we ought, and if we really valued a pregnant woman the same way we value a male soldier with a bayonet on a battlefield, and if we actually were in dialogue with the science of obstetrics instead of assuming we knew what was happening, then some of the medical procedures the Church forbids as direct killing would be permitted, in emergencies. But I don’t think the Church would ever take your standard secular pro-choice view, nor should she, and neither do I. If someone got an elective abortion for some kind of light reason, I would believe that that was a grave wrong. And I don’t want to participate in that kind of wrong. Not even by filling in a bubble on a ballot.

But I also know that that kind of abortion doesn’t happen very often. The stories I was told about selfish doxies getting abortions so they could wear a bikini were just lies. Both my pro-life and pro-choice friends have quoted me the adage, “No woman wants an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone. A woman wants an abortion like she wants her leg out of a bear trap.” And I believe that.

I would like to provide as many ways I can out of the bear trap, without killing anyone. Ironically enough, that’s why I usually vote Democrat. I think that all Republicans know how to do is tighten the bear trap. They are sadists, and their sadism has consequences. Abortion rates went up every year Trump was president, as I expected they would. I would rather actually save lives than score ideological victories every time.

I also don’t believe any doctor should have to call their lawyer before performing lifesaving care on a patient in distress. And we’ve all seen that that’s what happens, when politicians draft laws against abortion instead of letting the doctor decide what’s in the patient’s best interest. Writing “the life of the mother” and letting a hospital’s legal team decide what that means doesn’t work. “The life of the mother” leaves people in danger.

And I also don’t ever want someone to be suspected of a crime for having a miscarriage or a late period. And I don’t want some terrified teenager who did something drastic so her abusive parents wouldn’t find out she was sexually active to go to jail because she self-managed her abortion– making her, in the eyes of the law, an abortionist. And I know that, even if laws are carefully written so that the woman or girl getting the abortion isn’t prosecuted for the abortion itself, a zealous prosecutor will find a reason to prosecute the wrong woman if she gets an abortion– for covering up the crime, perhaps, or for disposing of the fetus.

But I never, ever, ever want to be responsible for helping to kill a baby.

But on the other hand, can I trust the people who say they want to save babies?

Have they ever done anything to earn my trust? Haven’t they done the opposite?

I wish, with all my heart, that I could trust the people who claim they want to save the lives of babies. What a wonderful motive that is, to save a baby. Who in their right mind wouldn’t sacrifice everything to save a baby? Yet, again and again, I see the heroes and saints of the pro-life movement behaving like the worst people on earth. They exploit and lie about the dead. They are the most overt racists and tell histrionic lies about important things, endangering countless lives. They are odious misogynists. They’re abusive.  They claim they’re only trying to provide options and show people a better way, and then I find out they harass and traumatize.

Here in Ohio, they seem especially keen on taking away our right to a say in our own government instead of getting a pro-life message across.

Worst of all, I keep seeing that the bigwigs in the pro-life movement want to participate in moral panics and spread conspiracy theories instead of just telling the truth. I believe in telling the truth. I believe that the truth will set you free. I believe that the best way to find out the right thing to do, is to be perfectly honest about what you want and why.

Why can’t the pro-life movement tell the truth? “I believe that a fetus is a person and we shouldn’t kill persons” is an easy thing to say. Why don’t they say that? Why do they always resort to scaremongering and lies? Why all this nonsense about “parents’ rights” and making up stories about transgender people? The truth is easy to defend. Talk about babies, if what you care about is babies. Babies are cute and wonderful. A thing that’s truly good for babies should be an easy sell.

Wouldn’t everyone like to work together to help babies?

I never, ever, ever want to be responsible for anybody’s death, least of all a baby. But I’ve come to the realization that the pro-life movement doesn’t actually want to save babies. I don’t want to have anything in common with the pro-life movement anymore, because all they want is to hurt, manipulate and control.

So I am not going to talk about what I ended up doing when I went to vote. I hope you vote your conscience, for whatever you think is the best chance at the kind of world you’d like to live in, if you haven’t voted already.

I am just going to sit here and watch the returns.

Maybe I won’t even do that. Maybe I’ll go for a long drive in the country, and come back when they’re pretty well counted.

Whatever happens, I don’t think I’ll be happy.

If it goes the way I ended up voting that it should, part of me will be relived. But I can’t imagine I’ll be happy.

I wonder what would have happened if there had been a real, honest, pro-life movement: a movement that stood up for human beings and tried to help them without selling their souls for power. I would have loved to give my heart and soul working with such a movement. I would have considered it the only ethical position.

That would have been something to be happy about.

Instead, we have the current situation.

What a waste.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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