Sunday, November 05, 2000

A personal piece of the puzzle

        Emma will not be available for interviews until after the election, Angie Portune says firmly. And protectively. Frankly, I am not sure I would get any useful information from her anyway. Only 5 months old, Emma doesn't say much yet. “A tough little kid,” says her father, Todd Portune, a Cincinnati city councilman running for Hamilton County commission.

        She has been in and out of the hospital since birth. Breathing difficulties, a bowel obstruction. These are not unusual problems for a baby with Down Syndrome.

The abortion letter
               “A miracle,” says her mother, Angie. “And a surprise. It took us six years to conceive the twins. (Ethan and Ellie, now 4.) Six years and thousands of dollars worth of fertility drugs. And all of a sudden, here she is.”

        But, of course, as miraculous as they are, no child comes along “all of a sudden.” We have months to prepare. Or not, as the current law reads.


        Commissioner Bob Bed- inghaus has made this an election issue. He sent a letter to more than 16,000 households, a list he bought from the Right To Life agency, warning, “If Councilman Portune is elected, the Hamilton County Commission will no longer be pro-life.”

        Perhaps he fears Mr. Portune and Tom Neyer, an advocate of a woman's right to choose, would gang up on the third commissioner.

        “Under my leadership,” the letter reads, “Hamilton County health care coverage for county employees was modified to exclude abortion services. I also led the effort to encourage University Hospital officials to adopt a policy to stop spending tax dollars to provide abortion services.”

        And, although he doesn't mention it in his letter, in 1997 Mr. Bedinghaus withheld $100,000 in state money used to pay for pap smears, breast examinations and preventive birth control at a facility in Springdale serving low-income women.

        No abortions have ever been performed there, but the clinic is operated by Planned Parenthood, and Mr. Bedinghaus said “anything that has to do with abortion is something I choose not to support.”

        Point taken.

Emotional issue
               Although this procedure is legal, lots of Americans have trouble with it philosophically. Morally. And viscerally, especially viscerally.

        “I wasn't tested before Emma was born,” Angie says. “At 39 I knew the risks, but abortion is just not right for us. It's a personal choice.”

        Again, point taken.

        Some people will vote Tuesday for a candidate based on a single event or issue. Some will rule out George W. Bush because he was arrested 24 years ago for drunken driving.

        Some may vote against Bob Bedinghaus because he withheld funds for medical care for poor women, even though he worked to fund day care for the children of many of these same women. For some, the election will turn on Mr. Bed- inghaus' role in stadium development. Depending on your point of view, it's a positive or a negative.

        Guns are the only issue for some people. Abortion for others. But most of us struggle with the sum of a person's skills and character, the complicated puzzle of a human being.

        Emma Portune is a lovely little girl with brown hair and eyes to match. She is not a campaign issue. But I thought you might want to know about her anyway.



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