After publishing an endorsement for Jay Edwards in the Oct. 29 issue of The Athens NEWS, our staff has received ample criticism from readers on Facebook who argue that the endorsement flies in the face of women’s rights. 

Primarily, these are people with whom I, personally, would typically align myself. These comments are from people who presumably believe that a woman should have the right to dictate what happens to and within her own body, including whether or not another human gestates therein. I totally agree; however, I don’t appreciate the assertions by some that The NEWS’ decision to endorse Edwards over Taylor Sappington for the 94th District Ohio House seat was made without or in spite of me.

As a woman with moderate political views and no real party loyalty, I find that elections are difficult. Though I’d like to vote for individuals who hold all of my views and have the exact same goals for the country as I do, that is rarely an option. For me, the matter boils down to one question: what issues are most valuable, and how do we decide? 

I would love to support every candidate who upholds my right to choose whether or not to carry a child, but the sad fact is that what to me should be an obvious right for women has become a contentious political issue that many candidates shy away from altogether. Taylor Sappington, for instance, has said that he is not pro-abortion, but still believes in a woman’s right to choose. OK, that’s great, but it’s not exactly a flaming declaration of support for women’s rights. 

Jay Edwards, in my opinion, has said something similar but with an opposite political tilt. He claims that he doesn’t spend a lot of his time focused on abortion legislation, but would support pro-life legislation should he have to vote on such legislation (he already has voted in favor of strict anti-abortion bills). Neither candidate, to me, seems to have elevated this issue above all others, so how could I passionately support either candidate based on that issue alone? 

Should I vote for a candidate who is pro-choice always, every time, no matter what, simply because I am a woman? Do the other political stances a candidate holds stand meaningless compared to the matter of my reproductive rights, and those of other women?

At this point in my life, I’m honestly not sure. 

When our news staff discussed whether to endorse Edwards or Sappington, I spent weeks trying to decide between the two and it was hard. On the one hand, I believe Edwards has been doing his job as a representative of the 94th District, focusing on the issues that he thinks most impact people in our district. Even if I disagree with some of his views, I believe he is representing the majority of his constituents to the best of his ability. 

On the other hand, Edwards claims to be pro-life, which in my view means that he views the life of a totally dependent fetus – a bundle of cells incapable of sustaining life without the mercy of its mother’s womb – as equal to, and perhaps more important than, the life of a fully developed human being. I vehemently disagree with this view, but my level of passion in opposition to his views doesn’t seem to match his own passion surrounding his belief.

That said, I don’t think it’s right to make political decisions that affect everyone based on a person’s strongly held views about a single issue. While I believe every state should implement legislation that allows women the freedom to decide whether or not they wish to carry children, and should eliminate any legislation that restricts that freedom, I also believe that democracy is about selecting the right people to represent the views of the majority in any given electorate, not about picking our favorites or voting based on a singular issue. If all I cared about was abortion legislation, then I wouldn’t even think about whether or not a person is actually qualified to do the job.

In 2016, many voters elected Donald Trump to be president for one primary reason: he claimed to be pro-life. Notwithstanding the nature of his actual views, I could not believe that so many people who previously argued that Trump was bad for America, that he would usher in a new era of bigotry and hatred, were suddenly supporting him simply because he agreed to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

In a world where science and evidence-based information means nothing to those who place their religion above everything else, it’s pointless for me to go on about how disappointing it is for me to see people, especially women, talk about the tragedy of removing a fetus from a woman’s body without so much as acknowledging the person who would have to risk her life in order to sustain it. Regardless, what’s more disappointing to me is the fact that a large number of people would make political decisions that impact millions of people for years to come, in a variety of political ways, based on a single issue.

Political decisions are complex and often tough to make. Not everyone approaches their votes in the same way. Seeing people berate our entire staff, or even just our editor, for the endorsement of Jay Edwards left a sour taste in my mouth. One person assumed that the decision must have been made by a majority of men, but literally half of the people who agreed to endorse Edwards were female, because I was half. Another person alleged that I was persuaded to endorse Edwards against my own beliefs – again, not accurate. My beliefs are my own, and they did play a major role in my decision not to write a separate endorsement.

The endorsement wasn’t about me, and it wasn’t about all women in the district: it was about our newsroom and representing what the editorial staff believes. Similarly, this election isn’t just about me and other women either; it’s about choosing representatives to serve every person in the district. Though I wish Jay Edwards would take a strong stance in support of women’s rights to access needed abortions, I also think he’s doing a good job in other areas. My support for women’s rights, which include my own, should have nothing to do with that.

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