COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just hours after Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Dr. Joan Duwve as the new director for the Ohio Department of Health, she withdrew her name from being considered due to concern her family would face similar harassment as the previous director.
The role has been vacant since former director Dr. Amy Acton left in June following harassment, saying it was "her time to leave." When the state began implementing orders to close down businesses during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, armed demonstrators showed up at her house to protest the orders.
“In conversations preparing for the transition to the Ohio Department of Health, I was informed that the former director’s family had faced harassment from the public,” Duwve said in a statement to South Carolina newspaper The State. “While I have dedicated my life to improving public health, my first commitment is to my family. I am a public figure. My family is off limits. I withdrew my name from consideration to protect my family from similar treatment."
South Carolina officials announced Friday Duwve would also not stay in her role as director for the South Carolina Health Department.
“Understandably, Joan has made a career decision that she feels is in the best interest of her family and we respect this decision,” said Marshall Taylor, the states' Department of Health and Environmental Control Director.
In a press release, DeWine said they will continue to find someone to fill the position.
Duwve is an Ohio native. She graduated from North Olmstead High School and the Ohio State University, according to the South Carolina Department of Health's website.
Soon after she withdrew her name, her resume began to circulate on Twitter.
A spokesperson from DeWine's office confirmed that her history with Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the decision to leave, and that DeWine knew of it before he hired her. The spokesperson declined to comment any further.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said the organization could not confirm Duvwe’s affiliation.
“Countless people in the public health field have interacted with us in some way, whether as staff, volunteers, or participants in our education programs,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
An outspoken conservative critic of DeWine and anti-abortion advocate Rep. John Becker said he would like to think her Planned Parenthood association was the reason for her withdrawal, but said he doubts that is the case because anti-abortion groups claim Acton was an abortion activist herself.
“I learned that Duwve had a pro-abortion background with Planned Parenthood, and I would like to believe that had something to do with it, but the Governor has stood behind Amy Acton who also had a pro-abortion background,” he said. “If doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Governor, so I seriously doubt that her involvement had anything to do with this.”
If Duwve had not withdrawn, her appointment would have likely triggered a dispute among Ohio Senate lawmakers during the confirmation process over her abortion views. Becker said whether or not DeWine was aware of her past work with Planned Parenthood, her short-lived appointment shows a “competency” issue with his office.
“I would like to think the Governor would be paying attention to who is pro-life and who is pro-abortion, and put pro-life people in executive power, especially the Department of Health, where their job is to save lives not kill people,” he said.
She was due to start her position in Ohio on Oct. 1.
Until DeWine finds a permanent replacement, Lance Himes is the interim director and has been in the position since Acton left.