Gov. Kasich, "consistent... believer in the sanctity of human life", don't kill Gary O



There was a time—more recently than I’d like to admit—that I did not oppose the death penalty. I was by no means a supporter; it just never was an issue that had crossed my mind. I hadn’t ever lived in a state where executions were legal, and other issues of social justice had taken priority.

It was a dear friend who brought it to my attention just weeks after the first March for Life I ever attended. A quick Google search of the issue brought to my attention, among many other stories, the execution of Dennis McGuire on January 16, 2014, just a few weeks prior. It was clear from the massive amount of news coverage that this execution in particular was controversial. Dennis was convicted of the murder of Joy Stewart and her preborn child. Coming from the March for Life as I was, I felt particularly sympathetic towards Joy’s family and her parents’ loss in both a daughter and a granddaughter. But as horrific as that act was, so too, I found, was Dennis’s own death.

The modern practice of execution in the U.S. involves a constantly evolving cocktail of drugs used in lethal injections. For Dennis, this meant that he would be the first in the country to be killed with the combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. His story made headlines when eyewitnesses gave accounts that he “gulped and snorted for up to 15 minutes before he was finally pronounced dead.” [1]

While there is much to be discussed on the topic of lethal injections and their lack of reliability (including a botch rate of 7.1% [2]), stories like these highlighted a much more fundamental truth to me. It’s easy to think of people who have committed murder as cold and heartless, but I couldn’t shake the image of a man strapped to a table gasping for air and clinging to his last moments while his family helplessly watched. Despite Dennis’s prior crimes, he too could be robbed of his dignity, his humanity, and his life.

Just weeks earlier, I had traveled across the country to advocate for the life and rights of the preborn, yet all my life so far I had remained silent with respect to the fact that my government was taking the lives of another group of human beings. If I am to advocate for human rights and grant equality to every human being no matter the circumstances, how can I consistently hold that view while ignoring the injustice of capital punishment? I realized I could not exclude people like Dennis, innocent or not, and that capital punishment, like abortion, was an attack on human rights and dignity.

Over the next few months, and after several other important experiences, I came to fully embrace the Consistent Life Ethic (CLE). Now, years later, I’ve followed an opportunity to Cleveland, Ohio and while my schoolwork has increased and my free time has become limited, I try hard to stay committed to ending all violence against human beings. But luckily, I’ve discovered, in at least one way my CLE goals are much closer to being achieved here than in my home state.

This is referencing, of course, the onslaught of laws protecting pre-natal life which have been passed in Ohio over the course of only a few years. Among more than a dozen others, these have included measures to instate a 24-hour waiting period, restrictions on medical abortions, and limitations placed on abortion clinics. [3] Notably, in 2017, Ohio passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, outlawing abortions after 20 weeks. [4]

It would be wrong not to attribute this progress, at least in part, to the unwavering anti-abortion stance of Governor John Kasich. He describes himself on his website as a “strong, consistent and committed believer in the sanctity of human life.” [5] The page goes on to say that Kasich has passed more measures to protect preborn children than any other governor in Ohio’s history. In fact, eight Ohio abortion clinics have closed since Kasich took office, and yet another one is currently in court making last ditch attempts to stay open. [6]

But as remarkable as eight closed clinics is, thirteen Ohio inmates have been executed in the same time period. Moreover, tomorrow, the state of Ohio will perform another execution on a man named Gary Otte.

Kasich’s anti-abortion work is commendable, but it’s truly difficult to reconcile his so-called consistent belief in the sanctity of human life with his disregard for the lives of those in prison. But there is a way for him to redeem himself: only he and the courts have the ability to intervene and stop tomorrow’s execution.

At the time, however, these interventions seem unlikely. On Friday, Federal Judge Michael Merz has rejected Gary’s appeals regarding the use of certain drugs in the lethal injection combination that will be used to kill him. On September 1st, Kasich denied clemency to Gary, after which he additionally rescheduled Ohio’s future executions to ensure that they are carried out “in a humane and professional manner.” [7]

Kasich ought to recognize the contradictory nature of such a statement: intentionally killing another human being is inherently inhumane. But further, no one would ever claim that Ohio’s executions have been carried out in a “humane” or “professional” manner for an additional reason: Ohio’s second most recent execution was, in fact, Dennis McGuire’s.

While Ohio did halt executions for three years after Dennis’s tortuous end due to legal difficulties, Kasich has now broken this hiatus with the execution of Ronald Phillips in July, and tomorrow, Ohio will attempt the execution of Gary Otte. Another two dozen human beings are scheduled to be killed in the next few years.

However, there is still time for Kasich to stop these executions, including Gary’s, if only he is open-minded enough to recognize the inconsistent nature of his anti-abortion, pro-death penalty views. I encourage anyone reading this to call Governor Kasich at (614) 466-3555 and tell him that the best way right now to be a “strong, consistent and committed believer in the sanctity of human life” is to stop this and all future executions.

WORKS CITED

[1] Connor, Tracy. "Ronald Phillips Set to Die in Ohio's First Execution in Three Years." NBCNews.com. July 25, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ohio-set-resume-executions-child-killer-ronald-phillips-n785886.

[2] Siegelbaum, Debbie. "America's 'inexorably' botched executions." BBC News. August 01, 2014. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28555978.

[3] Ludden, Jennifer. "Abortion Restrictions Complicate Access For Ohio Women." NPR. March 03, 2015. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/03/390147649/abortion-restrictions-complicate-access-for-ohio-women.

[4] Andrusko, Dave. "Ohio's Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act takes effect today." NRL News Today Ohios PainCapable Unborn Child Protection Act takes effect today Comments. March 15, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2017/03/ohios-pain-capable-unborn-child-protection-act-takes-effect-today/#.WbcYoD597IU.

[5] "Respecting the Sanctity of Human Life." Kasich for America. Accessed September 11, 2017. https://www.johnkasich.com/respectinghumanlife/.

[6] "Northwest Ohio's last abortion clinic fights to stay open." The Blade. August 13, 2017. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://www.toledoblade.com/Courts/2017/08/14/Northwest-Ohio-S-Last-Abortion-Clinic-Capital-Care-Network-Fights-To-Stay-Open.Html.

[7] Press, Andrew Welsh-huggins associated. "Ohio governor says he won't spare condemned killer of 2." ABC News. Accessed September 11, 2017. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/ohio-governor-spare-condemned-killer-49573301.


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