Compared the onslaught of abortion restrictions passed in 2012, Ohio’s 2013 legislative cycle has been relatively drama-free when it comes to reproductive rights—until this week.
Despite a special session that ended abruptly with Senate Majority Leader Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) blocking an extreme heartbeat ban and a bill designed to defund Planned Parenthood, all had been fairly quiet. That changed Tuesday, when Ohio Republicans proposed budget items that would reject covering more low-income citizens under Medicaid, refuse government funding to Planned Parenthood, and give more money to crisis pregnancy centers.
The new Speaker of the House, Bill Batchelder (R-Medina), began the 2013 session swearing that the heartbeat ban would be a priority for the legislative body. However, state lawmakers agreed to prioritize the budget and move anti-choice bills to the back burner until that was settled.
But the GOP appears to have run out of patience with that plan. In what can only be described as a complete rejection of the belief that poor and uninsured citizens deserve health care, much less reproductive care, the house GOP has inserted its ideological agenda straight into the budget itself.
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The proposed house budget rejects Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, a move that would have been completely covered with federal dollars. In addition to rejecting expanded health-care coverage for the poor, house Republicans also proposed a plan to re-prioritize grants in an effort to strip the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving any sort of government funding. The party unsuccessfully tried to insert this amendment into last year’s budget, but it was stripped at the last minute thanks to public pressure.
Planned Parenthood may lose funding to help under-served communities in the state, but crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) won’t have the same problem. Although CPCs do not address any of the same needs (or even offer medical care or accurate medical information in many cases), under the new tiered health-care proposal they would receive a portion of the government funding being denied to Planned Parenthood.
“Today the Ohio House leadership introduced a revised budget that defunds women’s health care providers, including Planned Parenthood, while simultaneously providing funding for crisis pregnancy centers that refuse to provide contraceptives services or referrals,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement.
“So instead of using taxpayer dollars to fund programs to provide real health care and prevent unintended pregnancies, the Ohio House would send our money to crisis pregnancy centers that routinely give women deceptive and medically inaccurate information. The State of Ohio should be focusing on how to more effectively use limited resources to prevent unintended pregnancies. Instead this budget reduces access to family planning services and provides funding to biased counseling centers that provide little to no actual health care or resources.”