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Tim Ryan
Rep. Tim Ryan talks with reporters following a debate with at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio on March 28, 2022.Paul Vernon / AP file

Abortion divides Ohio Senate candidates along party lines

Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and GOP author J.D. Vance have starkly different views on abortion rights.

By and

The Supreme Court's decision to end the federal right to an abortion has placed a spotlight on governors races across the country, especially in states such as Ohio, where strict abortion bans quickly took effect.

The issue is also animating the state's Senate race, with the two major party nominees retreating to their partisan corners.

This week both Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan and Republican author J.D. Vance spoke with NBC News about their views on abortion as they face off to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman.

Ryan voiced his support for codifying the right to abortion into federal law. He has previously opposed abortion rights but changed his position in 2015. Vance, who has former President Donald Trump's endorsement in the race, said he opposes abortion rights and believes the issue should remain with the states, for now.

At a roundtable with law enforcement officials this week, Vance, tied women's rights to public safety.

“Democrats have tried to frame themselves as the only defender of women’s rights. … What about a woman’s right to walk down the street without being assaulted?" Vance said. "What about the woman’s right to send her kids to school where they’re getting a good education?”

When asked in a later interview by NBC News if he would support a federal ban on abortion, Vance delivered a full-throated defense of the Supreme Court’s ruling but stopped short of saying a federal ban should be in place at this time. 

“My view on this is let the states try to figure this out for now,” Vance said. Vance pointed to Ohio's so-called heartbeat bill, which took effect hours after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The law bans abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

“I think that’s a good bill," Vance said. "Florida has gone a slightly different direction. Virginia has gone a slightly different direction. When we’re figuring this new legal regime out, I think it makes sense right now to let the states decide this stuff. And right now, states are moving into pro-life direction. I think that’s a good thing.”

Ryan vehemently disagrees. On the day of the ruling, the lawmaker went to the Supreme Court in protest along with his daughter and a crowd of supporters of abortion rights. Ryan’s views on abortion have evolved over the years, but he said being with his daughter that day was moving.

“I was with our daughter—that just absolutely renewed my commitment to protecting her freedom and keeping the government out of her business,” he said. “This is the largest governmental overreach in the private lives of citizens in my lifetime. This is big government coming into your doctor’s office, your bedroom. It’s crazy. This is not freedom.”

He also said the ruling is bad for the economy of states like Ohio with restrictive abortion laws.

“How are we going to land big companies that are in the industries of the future if we have these kind of laws that are coming out of like the, you know, 18th Century?” Ryan said. “This is crazy. We want to land big companies, big jobs, and we want to keep our young people here, and young people are scared to death now.”