News Politics

Ohio Republicans Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood

Jenn Stanley

If Gov. John Kasich signs the bill into law, it would take away $1.3 million in state funding for Planned Parenthood's maternal and preventive health-care programs.

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.”

News Law and Policy

McAuliffe Restores Voting Rights to 13,000 Virginians

Jessica Mason Pieklo

An order issued this week should restore the voting rights to about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people ahead of the November presidential election.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Monday announced he had restored the voting rights of about 13,000 formerly incarcerated people, responding to a Virginia Supreme Court order that had blocked McAuliffe’s more expansive re-enfranchisement order.

A divided Virginia Supreme Court in July struck down an executive order by McAuliffe that restored voting rights to more than 200,000 people who had lost those rights as a result of a criminal conviction. The court said the Democratic governor lacked the constitutional authority to issue an order broadly restoring voting rights, but would need to instead restore rights individually to each person who had applied.

“The process I have announced today fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before me,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “It also reflects the clear authority the governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time.”

Any person who has been convicted of a felony and is not incarcerated or under court supervision can apply to have their voting rights restored. The voting rights restored this week were for people who had applied before the Virginia Supreme Court blocked McAuliffe’s broader order.

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McAuliffe had promised to personally restore those individual voting rights.

Virginia Republican leaders criticized the move as political and dangerous. House Speaker Bill Howell (R) said in a statement to the Virginian-Pilot that McAuliffe “has restored the rights of some odious criminals.”

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

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