Ohio’s Republican-controlled house on Tuesday voted 62-30 in favor of a bill to pull public funding from Planned Parenthood.
HB 294 was sponsored by Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Liberty Township) and Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland). Patmon was the only Democrat to vote in favor of the bill. The state senate passed its companion bill, SB 214, last month.
The bill redirects public funds from entities that promote or perform elective abortions. It was aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood after the release of the surreptitiously recorded, highly edited videos made by the anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress, which has worked closely with GOP legislators in attacking funding for the health-care organization.
This bill is one more push in the direction of Gov. John Kasich’s and the Ohio state legislature’s staunch anti-choice agenda. Kasich signed a two-year budget bill in 2013 that included, among other anti-choice measures, stringent new licensing regulations for abortion clinics in the state. It resulted in the closure of half of Ohio’s outpatient abortion clinics.
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Kasich also appointed Michael L. Gonidakis, president of the anti-choice organization Ohio Right to Life, to the State of Ohio Medical Board.
Ohio provided about $3.7 million to the state’s 28 Planned Parenthood clinics in the most recent fiscal year. Medicaid reimbursements made up about $2.4 million of that funding. HB 294 would not affect Medicaid reimbursements. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio said that the funding specifically targets its “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” program that aims to prevent infant mortality.
Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, with especially elevated rates among Black and Hispanic infants, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Those in favor of the bill say that the funds will be redirected to about 200 health-care facilities, but many opposed don’t think those health centers could fill the gap left by Planned Parenthood’s defunding. Kelli Arthur Hykes, the director of public health policy at Columbus Public Health, testified against the bill.
“Local health departments don’t have the capacity to take on all the displaced patients. For example, in Columbus, we estimate that with additional funding, we would be able to grow our sexual health and women’s health services by about ten percent over the next few years,” Hykes said. “This would barely put a dent in the anticipated need, especially if there is an immediate loss of funding for Planned Parenthood before a local health department could ramp up services.”
Reproductive rights advocates paused debate hearings when they unfurled a banner from the balcony that said “Respect the living. Fund Planned Parenthood.”
“Testimony given by people all around our state—from Planned Parenthood staff to community partners—demonstrated that women and men rely on Planned Parenthood. Their stories and experiences directly contradict what is being said by the legislators who support this bill,” Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said in a statement. “Their blatant disregard for the truth and the well-being of Ohioans is shameful. They are willing to disrupt community programs that help some of our most vulnerable citizens, all to score cheap political points. These are not the leaders that the people of our state deserve.”