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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley speaks at a news conference in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, 2019.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley speaks at a news conference in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4, 2019.John Minchillo / AP file

Whaley launches ads attacking DeWine on abortion rights in Ohio governor's race

One 15-second spot features a pregnant mother recalling a past abortion: "I would have died without mine."


CLEVELAND — A pregnant mother shares her life-or-death choice to have an abortion while taking sharp aim at Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s anti-abortion policies in a new TV ad from Democrat Nan Whaley, who is running to unseat the Republican incumbent this fall.

“Terminating my pregnancy was devastating,” the woman, identified as Sarah from Knox County, says straight to the camera in the spot, shared first with NBC News. “But without that abortion, my children wouldn’t have their mother, and this baby wouldn’t be on the way right now.” 

“Mike DeWine has basically banned abortion in Ohio,” she continues. “I would have died without mine.”

The 15-second ad will begin airing Thursday in the Cleveland and Columbus markets as part of a multimillion-dollar media buy that launched last month, along with another 15-second spot featuring Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton, speaking straight to the camera. So far, DeWine's campaign has outspent Whaley's significantly on the airwaves, $5.3 million to $3.1 million per AdImpact.

“We’re not asking our leaders for a lot here,” Whaley says. “We simply believe women deserve the freedom to decide what’s right for our bodies, our families and our future. I’m Nan Whaley, and together we can take back our freedom.”

Abortion in Ohio is banned once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — typically at six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant — under a so-called “heartbeat bill” DeWine signed into law in 2019. The law did not take effect, however, until earlier this year, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion.

Whaley, the first woman to win a major party’s nomination for governor in Ohio, has made abortion rights central to her campaign since the Roe decision. An earlier ad focused on the case of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who traveled to Indiana for an abortion after an alleged rape. Other Whaley ads have emphasized kitchen-table issues and working-class values. 

“Our campaign intends to remind Ohio voters every day until Election Day just how extreme Mike DeWine is when it comes to restricting a woman’s right to choose,” said Whaley’s communications director, Courtney Rice.

The commercials come as many Republicans on the ballot this fall seek to distance themselves from the abortion debate while downplaying their own positions. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with GOP resistance this week as he proposed a national, 15-week ban on abortion. Ahead of the May primary, DeWine’s campaign website played up his anti-abortion views; those references have since been scrubbed, the Dayton Daily News reported in July. Other Republicans, including Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, have taken similar steps.

Whaley has pledged to lead a 2023 ballot initiative — similar to a measure on the ballot this year in Michigan — to codify abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution if she wins in November.

Recent independent polls have shown DeWine leading Whaley by 15 to 16 percentage points. Cook Political Report rates the race as a likely Republican hold.