News Contraception

Ohio Republicans’ Planned Parenthood Funding Bill May Be Stripped

Robin Marty

The fight over a potential plan to prioritize Medicaid funding with the intent of putting Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates last in line may be over.

The fight over a potential plan to prioritize Medicaid funding with the intent of putting Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates last in line may be over, as the House Finance Committee signals it will likely remove the amendment from the mid-biennium budget review.

The amendment, which many expected would cause funding to dry up before ever reaching Planned Parenthood, was being pushed by anti-choice activists hoping to both force Planned Parenthood into a fiscal crisis as well as free up funding for their own pet health centers that do not provide abortions and often even make it difficult to obtain birth control.  Planned Parenthood’s affiliates currently perform a large amount of the health screenings, contraceptive coverage and other medical assistance for low income and uninsured women in the state.

Ohio anti-choice activists fume that if they can’t get Planned Parenthood de-funded locally, they’ll just have to go back to doing it nationally. 

Via The Columbus Dispatch:

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“The pro-life community is deeply disappointed with this decision, but we are not disheartened,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “This issue is not over and it’s not the last you’re going to hear from Ohio Right to Life.”

Gionidakis noted that his group will work to elect Mitt Romney in November, and he has pushed to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level.

Although Republicans positioned the act as a way to ensure no funding went to providing abortions — something that was already forbidden in federal law, the bill would have not just affected contraception, but a myriad of other screenings and assistance provided by both Planned Parenthood as well. Innovation Ohio explained the impact the rule would have if passed:

Sub HB 487 goes much further than other bills that were previously introduced (see, for example, legislation introduced by Rep. Roegner and Sen. Jordan). 487 would, for example, bar Planned Parenthood from receiving funds for a number of other programs, including breast and cervical cancer screening, the Violence Against Women Act, infertility prevention and minority HIV/AIDS programs.

In its zeal to defund Planned Parenthood, Republicans were willing to put low income women at risk in the process.  As Ohio political news site Plunderbund writes:

[W]ho are legislators hurting? The vast majority—76 percent—of Planned Parenthood clients are at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. The care they are seeking ranges from testing for sexually-transmitted diseases, prenatal care, contraception, cancer screening and prevention and pregnancy testing. Abortion makes up only 3 percent of PP’s services. Contraception represents 34%. That means 63% of Planned Parenthood services have nothing to do with family planning.

Ohio Republicans do not care. They are on a mission to end Planned Parenthood and don’t care who gets cancer, has an undetected STD or who receives no prenatal care during pregnancy as a result.

The legislature is expected to vote on the new, stripped version of the budget review on Wednesday.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

Analysis Politics

Timeline: Donald Trump’s Shifting Position on Abortion Rights

Ally Boguhn

Trump’s murky position on abortion has caused an uproar this election season as conservatives grapple with a Republican nominee whose stance on the issue has varied over time. Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul's changing views on abortion.

For much of the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump’s seemingly ever-changing position on reproductive health care and abortion rights has continued to draw scrutiny.

Trump was “totally pro-choice” in 1999, but “pro-life” by 2011. He wanted to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, but claimed “you can’t go around and say that” about such measures two months later. He thinks Planned Parenthood does “very good work” but wants to see it lose all of its funding as long as it offers abortion care. And, perhaps most notoriously, in late March of this year Trump took multiple stances over the course of just a few hours on whether those who have abortions should be punished if it became illegal.

With the hesitancy of anti-choice groups to fully embrace Trump—and with pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List all backing his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—it is likely his stance on abortion will remain a key election issue moving into November.

Join Rewire for a look back at the business mogul’s changing views on abortion.

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