COLUMBUS, Oct. 3 (AP): Ohio’s top governor candidates divided most intensely on abortion during a face-to-face meeting, with Democrat Ted Strickland advocating a woman’s choice in the matter and Republican Ken Blackwell challenging his position.
Strickland, a congressman from Appalachia who is leading in the polls, accused Blackwell of changing his position on abortion over the course of the year, in a meeting Monday with the editorial board of The Columbus Dispatch.
He said Blackwell, Ohio’s secretary of state, opposed abortion under any circumstances during his heated primary against Attorney General Jim Petro, but ``has since nuanced that in a rather clever way'' to allow abortion to save a mother's life.
Blackwell, who would be the state's first black governor, said his statements on saving the mother's life don't represent a position change.
He said medical science has advanced to a point where choosing between the life of the mother or baby is “no longer the dilemma the medical profession had to deal with.'' Strickland said doctors have told him that assertion “is just flat out wrong.''
Holding his hand almost in Strickland's face, Blackwell said: “Take a look at the color of my skin. There would be very few people of this color if the instinct of the slave that was brutally attacked, the slave woman, was to kill the baby.''
Blackwell said rape victims today can use the so-called ``morning-after pill'' to prevent pregnancy, but that if one of his two daughters were raped and surpassed that opportunity, he would view aborting the pregnancy as the ``more traumatic choice'' than carrying the baby to term.
“It ought to be her choice,'' Strickland said. “That is where we differ,'' Blackwell replied.
During their nearly two hours with the newspaper's editors, the candidates also jockeyed to label each other as a puppet of interest groups, with Blackwell painting a Strickland administration as beholden to labor union bosses and Strickland suggesting a Blackwell administration would be captive to the religious right.
Strickland called Blackwell an opportunist for embracing a government-limiting constitutional amendment—dubbed Tax and Expenditure Limitation, or TEL—throughout the primary, then abandoning it when public pressure mounted.
“I think that calls into question your judgment, and quite frankly, whether or not you would be good for Ohio,” Strickland said.
Blackwell questioned Strickland's response to the investment scandals that have plagued the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation since last spring, suggesting Strickland protected AFL-CIO President Bill Burga, a member of the bureau's oversight commission, by not asking for him to resign.
“Your silence was deafening, because it would have required you to ask Mr. Burga to come down off of that board, and you just didn't have the leadership courage to do that,'' Blackwell said.