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Published: Saturday, 4/20/2013

A call to arms against Ohio House GOP’s war on women

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

Ohio House Republicans are challenged to explain why another legislative attack on Planned Parenthood operations in this state is not a war on women. Why are you effectively moving to defund the women’s health-care provider?

Statehouse Republicans tried the same thing last year, before and after the presidential election. A bill that would have gutted federal family-planning aid to Planned Parenthood eventually made it through the GOP-controlled House but not the GOP-controlled Senate.

This year, House GOP lawmakers are trying again. They hope to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood by slipping language that ranks providers into a state budget bill.

The proposal puts Planned Parenthood last in line for federal dollars — after public health agencies, community health centers, privately run practices, and centers that provide comprehensive care in addition to family planning services. The plan won’t even get its own hearing. After past schemes to reallocate funding away from Planned Parenthood provoked outrage, House Republicans chose to minimize public input.

What some officeholders or would-be officeholders don’t know about women is astounding. Did they never learn what a woman scorned is capable of unleashing?

Women who are motivated to move mountains can swing elections, as private citizen Mitt Romney will attest. Our gender outnumbers and outvotes men. We will not be minimized, marginalized, or mistreated.

Republicans were taught that lesson last November, with the apparent exception of those who retained legislative power in states such as Ohio. Buckeye Republicans still pursue the polar opposite of what most women want.

“I think that there is a group of people in the Statehouse who don’t think family-planning programs, that refer or provide a full set of options for a woman who’s facing a pregnancy, should get funding,” said Stephanie Kight, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. “This [prioritizing providers] is the one place they can choke off funding that comes from the federal government under the cover of redistributing it.

“There’s not more money,” Ms. Kight said. “It’s the same money, so more women aren’t going to be served. The funds are just going to be redistributed away from Planned Parenthood and a couple of other family planning providers.

“This really is taking what is now a competitive, fair process and making it unfair and weighted towards a set of agencies that don’t necessarily have the resources or expertise to provide these services.” she told me.

Under the competitive grant process, Planned Parenthood in Ohio receives about $3.5 million annually in federal funds. Most of that money is distributed by the state. Planned Parenthood stands to lose about $1.3 million — most of which goes toward health education — if the legislative proposal goes through. The organization serves nearly 100,000 Ohioans, mostly women, at 32 health clinics across the state.

Nearly all of the services used by women who visit Planned Parenthood involve preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, breast health services, pap tests, sex education, and health information.

Only 3 percent of the organization’s services provide for abortions. No federal tax money can be used for abortion-related services. Nevertheless, providing the procedure is what drives the ideology to defund it.

“Four family planning providers in the state are going to get defunded by this, who don’t do abortions but they refer for abortions,” said Ms. Kight. “They’re getting defunded because they say the word abortion out loud. ”

Planned Parenthood has no plans to walk away from “providing quality, compassionate abortions,” she said. “But what we really want is to reduce the need for abortions … because women have access to good reproductive health care and good education.”

If Ohio Republicans cut between 7 and 10 percent of funding for Planned Parenthood, Ms. Kight said, they will reduce access to health care for about 14,000 women and young people. “When you disrupt that money and that safety net, you’re disrupting the health care of the most vulnerable women in Ohio, and that’s really shameful.”

Republicans who are safe in gerrymandered districts may not be afraid to be labeled anti-women. But they should be.

Sisters, this is a call for action. Challenge your state representative and state senator to defend what’s happening with funding for Planned Parenthood.

Ask them how this is not a war on women.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade. Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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