An Anti-Abortion Ohio Legislator's Embarrassing Night Out
Last Tuesday, Ohio Rep. Robert Mecklenborg -- a self-described "Catholic boy from the west side of Cincinnati" -- stood on the House floor to champion the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country.
"We marvel, don't we?" he said, before voting for the "heartbeat" bill. "We marvel at the march of the penguins as they go to propagate their species under very, very difficult odds and conditions. We marvel at the leaping salmon as they return to their ancestral homes."
He also marveled over the mating habits of loggerhead turtles.
You're not alone if you don't quite see the parallel of wildlife to women's lives.
Not once have I ever looked at a woman of reproductive age -- including our three daughters and daughter-in-law -- and thought: Why, you're no different from fish, birds or reptiles.
I can, however, see how linking women's sex lives to images of prancing penguins makes it easier for some men to pretend we aren't really human. Once you've convinced yourself that we women only recently shed our scales and fins and started walking upright, you can give yourself permission to break all kinds of rules.
Which brings us to a recent development in the life of Rep. Mecklenborg.
In a way, this isn't exactly breaking news. The events in question happened more than two months ago. However, blogs and news outlets -- and reportedly the House Republican leadership -- found out only last Wednesday.
That's exactly one day after Mecklenborg's feisty critters speech.
On Saturday, April 23 -- in the wee hours of the morning after Good Friday -- an Indiana state trooper pulled over Mecklenborg, who was driving in Dearborn County, with temporary Kentucky license plates. The officer stated in his report that he stopped Mecklenborg for a burned-out headlight, but then suspected he was intoxicated after he smelled alcohol and noticed the state rep's "glossy, bloodshot eyes."
Mecklenborg refused a chemical test, and then failed three field sobriety tests. After a blood test, he was charged with drunken driving. The 59-year-old married father of three also tested positive for Viagra.
Mecklenborg was not alone that evening. His passenger was a 26-year-old woman who is neither his wife nor one of his children.
In his incident report, the police officer noted that Mecklenborg's inebriated state "endangered a person."
By "person," we can assume he means a human life.
Mecklenborg, a Republican who represents western Hamilton County, pleaded not guilty.
His court date is set for later this month.
He did not return my calls to his government or law offices, but he did offer an explanation, sort of, to WLWT-TV in Cincinnati on Thursday:
"Being human, I have made a mistake and this has caused great hurt to my family, and I'm deeply sorry for that. I've served tirelessly and well my constituents and I want to apologize to them as well. While the discovery process in this case goes on, I am entitled to the same presumption of innocence as any other citizen."
When asked about his young passenger, Mecklenborg said, "I understand the interest in the DUI part, I guess, but the rest is a personal matter."
A personal matter?
Perhaps this is Rep. Mecklenborg's eureka moment.
Pro-choice Americans have always argued that a woman's sex life is a personal matter, and that any decisions involving her body are her business. We understand only too well why Mecklenborg would rather we stop asking questions about his private life.
Unfortunately for Mecklenborg, he is an elected official who has hinged his political ambitions on making the private lives of women his business. Questions loom.
Why was Robert Mecklenborg with this young woman? How did he meet her? Where did he meet her? Where was he going with her?
Why was he driving a car with Kentucky plates in the state of Indiana?
Why didn't the news of his arrest come straight from him, and right away, instead of more than two months later?
It's a personal matter, he said.
We marvel, don't we?
We marvel at a man willing to pause for a personal exception in his march over the rights of so many other women of reproductive age.
© 2011 Cleveland Plain Dealer