During her seven years on Capitol Hill, Ohio’s Jean Schmidt earned a reputation as one of the more controversial Republicans in Congress. In 2005, after the congresswoman lashed out at a Democratic war hero as a “coward,” The New York Times published a headline that referenced her unfortunate nickname: “Mean Jean.”
A decade ago, Schmidt unexpectedly lost in a GOP primary, ending her congressional career. Last year, however, the Ohioan launched a comeback bid of sorts, and was elected to the state legislature for a second stint.
And she’s now reminding everyone about some of the qualities that made her controversial in the first place. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported:
Ohio Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt sparked outrage during a hearing on an abortion bill when she said a hypothetical teenager traumatized by rape would have the “opportunity” to help that child become a “productive human being.”
At issue is a GOP proposal to ban abortions in Ohio if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The state bill includes no exceptions for rape or incest.
During a legislative hearing yesterday, a Democratic state legislator described a hypothetical scenario in which a 13-year-old girl became pregnant after being raped. “This bill would require this 13-year-old to carry this felon’s fetus to term regardless of any emotional or psychological damage or trauma that may be inflicted upon this 13-year-old girl to deliver this felon’s fetus. Is that right?” state Rep. Rich Brown asked Schmidt.
The Republican replied, “Rape is a difficult issue and it emotionally scars the individual, all or in part, for the rest of their life, just as child abuse does. But if a baby is created, it is a human life. And whether that mother ends that pregnancy or not, the scars will not go away, period.”
Schmidt went on to say, in reference to the hypothetical teenager, “It is a shame that it happens but there is an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is, to make a determination about what she’s going to do to help that life be a productive human being. Just because you have emotional scars doesn’t give you the right to take the life.”
As longtime readers may recall, it was 10 years ago — right around the time Schmidt lost her primary — when Republican Todd Akin famously declared, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The Missourian was, of course, in a competitive U.S. Senate race at the time.
Two months later, in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Richard Mourdock argued that when a woman is impregnated by a rapist, “it’s something God intended.”
As the dust settled on the 2012 election cycle, and Akin and Mourdock lost their red-state contests, Kellyanne Conway was brought in to advise House GOP candidates and officeholders on the issue. Conway — at the time, a prominent Republican pollster, years before she joined Donald Trump’s political operation — implored her partisan allies: Stop talking about rape.
Ten years later, some in the party appear to have forgotten the lesson. Last fall, for example, J.D. Vance, a Republican U.S. Senate hopeful said he’d support abortion bans, even if they applied to pregnancies resulting from rape. The Ohioan described such pregnancies as “inconvenient.”
As we’ve discussed, it was a few months later when Garrett Soldano, a GOP gubernatorial candidate also said he’d oppose rape exceptions for abortion bans. “How about we start inspiring women in the culture to let them understand and know how heroic they are and how unbelievable they are that God put them in this moment,” he said earlier this year.
Now, Jean Schmidt is lending her voice to the argument, saying those impregnated by rapists have “an opportunity” — not to terminate the unwanted pregnancy, but take the pregnancy to term.
It’s hardly unreasonable to wonder how many more Republicans will echo this line as the election season unfolds over the next several months.