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Mike DeWine's Disappointing Veto

By Adam Mathews
Published By The National Review on January 5, 2024
Adam Mathews In The News

On December 29, 2023, Governor Mike DeWine vetoed House Bill 68, which would have banned puberty blockers and surgeries in service of medical transitions of minors as well as prevented male athletes from competing in girls’ sports in Ohio. This veto of House Bill 68 is at odds with what Ohioans believe. It is difficult for me, as a state legislator in Ohio, to have our chief executive and fellow Republican disappoint so thoroughly. He once again jettisoned common sense to listen to select liberal voices in the medical establishment. Thankfully, this time he is alone among our Republican elected officials. I proudly co-sponsored and voted for House Bill 68, and I look forward to voting to override the governor’s veto, putting the safety of Ohio’s children first. 
In the state legislature, we passed House Bill 68 on December 13 with veto-proof majorities in both chambers and knew a veto was a possibility. To make the bill more amenable to the state senate and ensure sufficient votes for an override, it was amended to include a grandfather clause for those currently receiving treatment, and to stipulate that only one parent had to consent to counseling related to gender treatment instead of both. Even with these concessions, the governor took the direct act of standing against the legislation with a veto.

As Catholic politicians in Ohio, the governor and I each face the challenge of balancing our responsibility of representing the will of our voters while upholding both faith and reason. However, all three point to supporting House Bill 68. From Aristotle to Aquinas, we are directed to promote and love the good, the beautiful, and the true. Instead, the governor’s veto enables and empowers harm, disfigurement, and a lie deeply at odds with human anthropology.

Representative Gary Click, who introduced House Bill 68, has fearlessly and faithfully carried the bill for three years. Representative Click, the vast majority of the General Assembly, and I remain focused on the health and well-being of children and families. We heard heart-wrenching testimony from those who regretted irreversible surgeries, as well as pointed testimony showing Ohio hospitals connecting minors with surgical resources. As part of the legislative process, all interested parties, including the governor’s office, could have been involved, but it was not. Three years of legislative work and updated scientific review simply cannot be digested in two weeks.

In his statement explaining the veto, Governor DeWine emphasized the importance of not “overruling the medical decisions made by the parents.” While this sentiment is often valid, it is crucial to address the coercion currently employed by those pushing this gender ideology, who leverage threats of suicide to influence parental decisions. In light of the fact that the likelihood of suicide seems to increase after medical intervention, this manipulation by doctors and activists should be condemned and not rewarded. Over the years, our culture has successfully navigated body dysphoria before. When teenagers struggling with anorexia threatened self-harm, they reoriented toward reality instead of being given affirmation, appetite suppressants, and liposuction.

Moreover, the governor’s commentary and proposed actions released on January 5, 2024, entirely ignore House Bill 68’s ban on puberty blockers. If surgeries are worth banning, which is granted by the governor’s draft rules, then so are puberty blockers. Studies, including those done by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, demonstrate that 85–95 percent of children who experience gender dysphoria will naturally identify with their sex after experiencing puberty. The introduction of puberty blockers, however, effectively locks a child into later more intense interventions. Puberty blockers are not neutral. They permanently reduce height, brain development, and bone density. With prolonged use, they can eliminate fertility entirely. This reality alone is enough to override the veto.

The second part of House Bill 68 is directed at keeping men out of women’s sports. In his public statement, the governor makes no defense of his veto because his veto is indefensible. Title IX and girls’ sports exist because we know that, while men and women are equal in dignity, they are distinct and different. It is both unfair and dangerous to act upon a fantasy that there is no difference between men and women in athletics. We understand this simple fact of biological distinctions for age brackets. It is a shame we have to pass a law to enforce what was easily comprehensible ten years ago. While typically we would default to local decision-makers to set relevant regulations, relying on individual school districts to make their own rules is unworkable with interscholastic play.

Put simply, we in the general assembly must protect families and children from the worst excesses of combined misguided compassion and medical adventurism. My colleagues in the house and I look forward to a speedy veto override as soon as possible. We expect the senate to similarly take swift action to stand for the principles of Ohioans.

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