Ohio lawmakers are defunding Planned Parenthood…And possibly several other public health programs

At DemVoices, we try to stay positive. We aim to facilitate constructive conversations about current issues in Ohio. But, this week, we’re straight up pissed off. How do you work to bring out humanity in politics when Ohio lawmakers are all-but-literally shouting in our faces that they prioritize politics over humanity?

Here’s what happened: On Wednesday, January 27, the Ohio Senate passed House Bill 294– a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio. The bill had already passed in the House, and now will return there for a vote of concurrence on the Senate’s version. From the House, it will go to Governor Kasich’s desk, who has indicated that he supports this measure, and has signed into law many infringements on women’s reproductive freedom in the past.

The lawmakers behind HB 294 introduced the bill in direct response to the so-called Center for Medical Progress’s since-debunked videos claiming Planned Parenthood engaged in the business of selling fetal tissue for profit. After investigating the videos that were released last summer, a grand jury found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part and indicted the creators of the videos.

Rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Ohio Statehouse, October 2015
Rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Ohio Statehouse, October 2015

Look, I get it. Some people are morally opposed to abortion. I do not agree with them, and neither do most Americans, but that’s okay. We’ll never all agree on matters of personal belief. Because it’s personal, and a belief.

But the facts are: Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortion care in the U.S. (which is great, because abortion care is medical care); however, abortion services make up just 3% of Planned Parenthood’s work providing affordable, accessible reproductive healthcare to women. And, here’s the fact that so many people refuse to understand: federal and state dollars allocated to Planned Parenthood expressly DO NOT fund abortion procedures. THAT is illegal. One more time for the people in the back: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE IS ABORTION EVER FUNDED BY STATE OR FEDERAL DOLLARS.

Ohio’s anti-choice lawmakers insist that their effort to defund Planned Parenthood would “only” divert $1.3 million in state funds from Planned Parenthood — practically a rounding error to the state’s multi-billion dollar budget, but the difference between having or not having a mammogram, or receiving birth control, or receiving a reproductive health check-up for many women. Far from a minor move, this bill constitutes a direct assault on women’s access to affordable, quality healthcare, in a state that should be doing the opposite. To make matters worse, the bill actually places a number of  other public health programs and initiatives at risk with vague language that makes it unclear which programs or organizations that “assist with” or “promote” abortion would also lose their funding. Like, would insurance companies that offer plans that cover abortion (which they should do, considering the fact that abortion is medical care) be seen as “assisting with” abortion? Jaime Miracle, Deputy Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, explains:

“Anyone– like a local health department– who contracts with an insurance company to get reimbursed for medical care provided– like a vaccine or prenatal visit– would be contracting with an entity that promotes abortion and could lose these ODH funds.” Read Miracle’s testimony.

Here are some other programs whose funding may be jeopardized by House Bill 294:

Infant mortality reduction or infant vitality initiatives

Violence Against Women

Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act

Infertility Prevention Project

HIV/AIDS Initiative

The willingness of Ohio’s “leaders” to make such reckless decisions where public health is concerned is truly infuriating. While Ohio’s infant mortality rate has dropped, it continues to rise among black communities. 36.5% of Ohio’s counties experienced an increase in domestic violence between 2010 and 2014. Women of low-income backgrounds are less likely to be screened for breast and cervical cancer. Black Ohioans are nine times more likely to be infected with AIDS than white Ohioans. The decision to defund Planned Parenthood– and any entity that works with Planned Parenthood to provide healthcare– is, quite frankly, really stupid.

So, what can YOU do about it?

Call John Kasich right now  (614-466-3555) and tell him to VETO House Bill 294. Post on Facebook and Twitter the facts about what this bill does and use #VetoHB294 to get the word out there. Stand with Ohio women and children and stand with Planned Parenthood. And, as ALWAYS, please vote. Bad politicians like the ones supporting this bill are put in power by good people who didn’t vote.