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Published: Friday, 12/8/2006

Ohio House passes bill to limit use of state funds for abortion


COLUMBUS - The Ohio House yesterday approved a bill designed to prevent the next governor from rolling back current limitations on using taxpayer funds for abortion and related counseling.

With a pro-choice governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, set to take office on Jan. 8, lawmakers sought to make permanent an administrative rule preventing public funds from being spent on abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life or physical health of the mother is at stake.

"Codifying this rule will not change current practice," said Rep. Michelle Schneider (R., Cincinnati).

The bill, which Ms. Schneider characterized as a "common-sense bill," also makes permanent temporary language inserted into the last few two-year budgets that kept public funds from organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion counseling or referral.

The bill declares that it is the public policy of the state to prefer birth over abortion. It passed the chamber by a bipartisan margin of 68-25 and now goes to the Senate.

Despite hitting a hot-button issue in the waning days of a legislative session, there was relatively little debate.

The measure is a far cry from the worst fear of abortion-rights advocates, a lame-duck re-emergence of a bill that would all but ban abortion in Ohio in an effort to force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.

House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty (D., Columbus), however, disputed the suggestion that yesterday's measure is a "common-sense bill." She said the policy cuts off funding to clinics and organizations that also provide counseling and treatment for breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

She also criticized a provision requiring those seeking taxpayer-funded abortions under the rape and incest exemptions to file police reports, something she said many victims are afraid or ashamed to do.

"Wouldn't it be more appropriate for us to say in the great state of Ohio that we want our public policy to be one that is more compassionate, for it to be a public policy of our state that we are about preventing unplanned pregnancy, health care, and education?" she asked.

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