News Law and Policy

Kasich, Ohio GOP to End Funding for Program to Curb Infant Mortality

Jenn Stanley

The funds will be redirected to about 200 health-care facilities, but pro-choice advocates don’t think those health centers could fill the gap left by Planned Parenthood’s defunding.

Ohio’s Republican-held house voted Wednesday on a bill that will cut $1.3 million in funding to Planned Parenthood, and Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he would sign it when it got to his desk.

Planned Parenthood officials say the bill, which passed in the state senate for the second time last month, targets funding for the organization’s infant mortality program.

“John Kasich said he supports women and families,” says an ad from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. “So why does Kasich want to defund Planned Parenthood, cut programs that prevent infant mortality, and end important domestic violence prevention initiatives?”

The bill redirects public funds from entities that promote or perform elective abortions, but will not affect Medicaid funding. Medicaid reimbursements made up about $2.4 million of the $3.7 million that Ohio provided to the state’s 28 Planned Parenthood clinics in the most recent fiscal year. The Republican legislation takes funding from the organization’s “Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies” initiative, meant to combat the state’s infant mortality rates, one of the highest in the country, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Kasich, while campaigning in Iowa last month, told voters that he would sign a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, and a spokesman for the governor confirmed this in a statement.

“Since taking office, Governor Kasich has worked with legislative leaders to ensure that public dollars are used to their best purpose,” spokesman Joe Andrews said. “The Ohio Department of Health had already stopped awarding state dollars to Planned Parenthood and they were kicked to the back of the line for the federal government’s family planning grants that the department administers. This bill further reinforces Ohio’s policies.”

Many anti-choice lawmakers have made it their mission to defund Planned Parenthood after last year’s release of surreptitiously recorded, highly edited videos made by the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). CMP officials, who were recently indicted on charges related to their widely discredited recordings, have worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for the organization.

Republicans dominate both chambers of the Ohio legislature, holding a 23-10 state senate advantage and a 65-34 house majority.

Kasich, who placed second in Tuesday’s New Hampshire GOP primary, has supported and passed a number of anti-choice policies since taking office in 2011.

Half of Ohio’s outpatient abortion clinics closed after Kasich signed a two-year budget bill in 2013 that included, among other anti-choice measures, stringent licensing regulations for abortion clinics. He also appointed Michael L. Gonidakis, president of the anti-choice organization Ohio Right to Life, to the State of Ohio Medical Board.

“We have the most pro-life governor in this [presidential] race right now,” Gonidakis told the Washington Post. “If the life issue is the number one issue determining who you will support on the Republican presidential ticket, there’s no better candidate than John Kasich.”

Those in favor of the bill say that the funds will be redirected to about 200 health-care facilities, but many opposed to the measure don’t think those health centers could fill the gap left by Planned Parenthood’s defunding.

“If Planned Parenthood goes away as a provider, there will be a void of services in our community,” Kelli Arthur Hykes, the health policy director for the health department in Columbus, said in a statement. “We don’t have the capacity to fill that void.”

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