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Kasich needs to own his record on women's health

Posted at 10:02 PM, Sep 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-30 22:02:50-04

David Holthaus is WCPO.com's managing editor for opinion and engagement.

The “war on women” theme was effective as a campaign rallying cry in 2012, but a real battle is still being waged on the ground in Ohio.

And Gov. John Kasich needs to answer for it.

Kasich, now on the national stage running for president, needs to own what he’s done with women’s health in Ohio. The impact is being felt here and around the state.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Mount Auburn, which has operated legally for more than 40 years, is now in danger of closing because of the largely successful campaign against women’s health centers that provide abortions, a campaign supported by Ohio’s governor. If it closes, Cincinnati would be the largest metro area in the nation without an abortion clinic. Since 2010, eight of Ohio’s 16 surgical abortion clinics have closed.

Planned Parenthood’s Mt. Auburn clinic

Kasich’s war has been an undercover operation. Restrictive, onerous regulations were inserted into budget bills so that they would not receive a full airing in the court of public opinion. In the latest budget passed this summer, legislators inserted a rule that permits the automatic denial of a clinic's request for a even a slight variance from the law if the state fails to respond to the request within 60 days.

This means a clinic can lose its license if the state health director, an official appointed by the governor, simply ignores its request for a variance from the law.

That item targets clinics in Toledo, Dayton and Cincinnati, which all have variance requests pending.

Kasich signed that budget bill and the others before it without vetoing the abortion restrictions. When asked about this, Kasich would clam up, offering that such clinics should simply “follow the law,” a law he just changed in midstream. Odd, for a politician who can extemporize in a stream-of-consciousness fashion on most any topic he warms up to.

Kasich has been able to get away with his quiet assault on women’s health in Ohio, where he has the support of 72 white guys of his own political party in the Legislature.

But now he has declared he wants to be the president of the United States, and he’ll need to answer for his record as governor. Women’s health will again be on the agenda in 2016, at least it will be if we can get past the Trumped-up name-calling, braggadocio and chest pounding that has dominated the discourse so far. Kasich should be pressed on women’s health care and prodded to deliver direct answers.

In the last GOP debate, Kasich, to his credit, tried to present himself as a moderate, a man of ideas and substance. That’s all good, and in some cases, Kasich has followed a moderate path as governor, notably in the political maneuvering he engineered to expand Medicaid in Ohio.

But on abortion, he's taken a hard right turn and waged a campaign to try to regulate out of existence health clinics that provide abortions.

So, the next GOP debate is Oct. 28, televised on CNBC from Boulder, Colo. The moderator should ask this question directly to Kasich:“In your years as governor, eight women’s health clinics that provide abortions have closed and at least two more are on the brink of closing. These centers provided health care to tens of thousands of women. Why did this happen?”

The debate is supposed to focus on jobs and the economy, so Kasich will undoubtedly tout the job growth that has occurred under his watch in Ohio.

But he won’t be able to dodge the abortion question if it’s asked in front of 20 million television viewers.

So, c’mon CNBC. Ask the question.