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Ohio House passes bill to defund Planned Parenthood

The Ohio House on Wednesday voted 59-32 to approve legislation (HB 294) that would defund Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, Reuters reports.

The bill now heads to Gov. John Kasich (R), a candidate seeking the Republican nomination for president, who is expected to sign it (Palmer, Reuters, 2/10). The state Senate approved the legislation in January.

Background

In 2015, the state House and Senate (SB 214) proposed companion measures to defund Planned Parenthood in response to a series of misleading videos targeting the organization's fetal tissue donation program. Conservative leaders in the Ohio Legislature decided to move forward with the House version of the measure.

Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities.

According to a Planned Parenthood official in Ohio, the organization does not participate in a fetal donation program in the state. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio has 28 clinics in the state, including three facilities that provide abortion care. Overall, PPGO serves about 80,000 patients.

Bill details

The bill would cut $1.3 million in public funding for Planned Parenthood. Specifically, under the bill, organizations that provide or advocate for abortion care, are affiliated with organizations that provide or advocate for abortion care, or have contracts with organizations that provide abortion care would not be eligible to receive the funding.

The state Department of Health distributes grants to programs for federal- and state-funded breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV testing and programs on infant mortality. The overall amount of funding would remain intact under the bill, but it would be redirected to other entities (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/29).

Implications

According to Planned Parenthood, the proposed cuts would negatively affect women who receive health care from the organization, many of whom have lower incomes (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 2/10). However, the organization said clinics will remain open if the bill is signed.

"This money is not going to change anything about the health care or abortion care that we provide to women in Ohio," said Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio (PPGO). She added, "These are community health programs that are being cut out and destroyed" (Sanner, AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/10).

Separately, Kelli Hykes, director of public health policy at Columbus Public Health, expressed concern about how the bill, if enacted, would be implemented. According to city officials, the bill's prohibition on grant recipients affiliating with organizations that advocate for abortion care could extend to insurers and hospitals.

Hykes said, "We'll be looking to the Ohio Department of Health to see how they officially interpret the legislation and what sort of onus they are going to put on local health departments to ensure that we don't have a relationship with groups that [advocate for] abortion [care]."

Comments

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "We've seen the dire consequences for women, men and young people when politicians block access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers." She added, "It's time for political games to end -- and for Governor Kasich to veto this bill so Ohioans don't lose vital care" (Washington Post, 2/10).

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said, "There's no legitimate justification for defunding Planned Parenthood. Every excuse by legislators has been debunked" (Reuters, 2/10).