COLUMBUS — Ohio House Republicans on Wednesday picked up where the election left off, advancing a bill expected to severely cut, if not end, federal family-planning funds for Planned Parenthood in the state.
The House Health and Aging Committee voted along party lines to approve House Bill 290 that would put the organization and its clinics last in line when it comes to distributing Ohio’s share of those dollars.
The halls of the Statehouse echoed with the chants of protesters, “Hear us now!,” during a break in testimony.
A similar measure had been pushed earlier this year within the context of the state budget, but was placed on the backburner during the heat of the presidential election amid Democrats’ claims that Republicans were waging a “war on women.” The bill is expected to reach the full House after Thanksgiving,
Dr. Kimberly Shepherd, a Columbus obstetrician/gynecologist, told the committee that the bill putting Planned Parenthood clinics last in line for potential funding is driven by ideology because 3 percent of the organization’s services are abortions. By law, federal family-planning dollars cannot be used for abortions, but Dr. Shepherd acknowledged the argument by some that the federal money may help to free up funds from other services to pay for abortions.
“We should not let that small minority of abortion services drive this debate …,” she said. “I truly believe that if you defund Planned Parenthood, it’s going to have a significant impact on the women on Ohio. … When you look at the medical facts of this, it doesn’t make sense to cut Planned Parenthood.”
Planned Parenthood’s 32 clinics in Ohio expect to lose between $1 million and $1.7 million in family planning dollars if they are moved to the bottom of the priority list after state, county, and local government entities, federally qualified health centers, Community Action Agencies, hospitals, and private practices that offer comprehensive primary and preventative health care in addition to family planning services.
Toledo has two Planned Parenthood clinics.
“What we’ve done is just greatly expand the availability of services across the state,” said Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), the committee’s chairman and an abortion-rights opponent.
He argued that the bill expands the number of potential grant recipients from about 33 now to roughly 500, including some in underserved rural regions of the state.
“The Ohio Association of Health Commissioners supports this bill, and they believe that more of these 125 local health districts will choose to provide these services with increasing opportunity for funding, that opportunity you are empowered to provide,” the Rev. John Coats, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, told the committee.
Opponents, however, countered that many of those clinics and health centers could apply now, but have chosen not to because they aren’t in as good a position as Planned Parenthood to provide contraception and other family planning services.
“This bill is about how we spend your money,” said Rep. Daniel Ramos (D., Lorain), who voted no. “Current law says we will spend it on whatever organization, Planned Parenthood or otherwise, that provides the best service for the least of your money. Current law is based in fiscal responsibility. This bill abandons fiscal responsibility.”
Nearly 100,000 Ohioans, mostly women, visit Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings; pregnancy, HIV, sexually transmitted disease testing; and birth control. Of its 32 clinics, three — one each in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati — provide abortions.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.