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Ohio GOP Attacks Planned Parenthood Infant Mortality Program—Again

Jenn Stanley

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.

Ohio’s GOP-held state senate voted this week for the second time on a bill that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

This time state senators were met with protesters offering testimonies, wearing patient smocks, and asking where the GOP lawmakers expected them to access health care.

“I’ve been watching and listening to the legislation put forth at the Statehouse, and here is what I have heard: When bills are crafted to defund Planned Parenthood, I hear that getting my pap smear to screen for pre-cancerous cells after I was diagnosed with HPV—which at that time I could only afford at Planned Parenthood—is not important to you,” Buxi Iacobone, who described herself as a patient-turned-volunteer-turned-employee at Planned Parenthood, testified before lawmakers. “When bills are crafted to defund Planned Parenthood, I hear that the patients I serve—the Ohioans who flock to my workplace every day, and thank me with tears in their eyes for being present for them in their moment of need—are not important to you.”

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 the Center for Medical Progress, which has worked closely with Republican legislators in attacking funding for the health-care organization.

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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 and the senate companion bill, SB 214, would not affect Medicaid reimbursements, but instead target its “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” program that aims to prevent infant mortality, according to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.

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.

Republicans dominate both chambers of the Ohio legislature, holding a 23-10 state senate advantage and a 66-35 house majority.

In the past year alone, Planned Parenthood in Ohio provided over 47,000 STD tests and over 3,600 HIV tests, served nearly 2,800 new or expectant mothers, and helped educate over 600 young people through the programs targeted in this bill, according to a press statement from Planned Parenthood.

The bill could have its final procedural vote in the house as early as February 9 before going to Gov. John Kasich’s desk for signature or veto. The Republican governor, a fledgling 2016 presidential candidate, has a long anti-choice track record. Many prominent Democrats and even the New York Times editorial board have urged Kasich not to sign the bill when it gets to his desk.

“During his time in office, Gov. Kasich has repeatedly attacked reproductive health and rights, signing 16 laws that have made it increasingly difficult for women to access vital reproductive health care and significantly decreased the number of health centers that provide access to safe and legal abortion,” Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Wednesday after the bill was passed in the Ohio state senate. “It’s time for Gov. Kasich to put the health and well-being of his constituents ahead of his own political ambitions and veto this bill to defund Planned Parenthood—a trusted health-care provider and lifeline for thousands of women, men and young people in Ohio.”

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