Ohio Senate Votes To Defund Planned Parenthood
Majority Republicans in the Ohio Senate has voted to defund Planned Parenthood and increase requirements for abortion providers. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.
The Ohio Senate voted for a plan that would strip more than $1.2 million from the
state's Planned Parenthood clinics. Republican Senator Peggy Lehner says the reason
for doing this is because of the organization's choice.
"Planned Parenthood has chosen, you like the word choice, they have chosen to be the
leading abortion provider in this state."
The measure would restrict such funds from going to entities that perform or promote
abortions, their affiliates and those that contract with an entity that performs
abortions. There is already a federal law on the books that prevents tax dollars
from going to abortion clinics but Stephanie Krider with Ohio Right to Life says
this bill helps make sure that doesn't inadvertently happen.
"In a perfect world, it shouldn't be supporting any abortions at all. It is keeping
their lights on, it is paying their staff. It's the same staff doing HIV testing
that is doing pre-abortion appointments. So there is no way to determine no funds
are going to support abortions."
But the bill does take away federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood for things
like HIV testing, cancer screenings, and educational programs aimed at preventing
violence against women. Several doctors testified against the defund Planned
Parenthood bill in a committee hearing earlier in the day, saying the organization's
services are well known to low income women who depend on them. They said community
health clinics that could get the federal dollars once this bill is signed into law
are not familiar to women and cannot provide the same services. Planned Parenthood
of Greater Ohio's Stephanie Kight says that's why the state, during all five years
of Gov. John Kasich's administration, had chosen to give the dollars in question to
her organization in the first place. She says the group will continue to try to find
a way to provide those services.
"Will Planned Parenthood still be here next week? Of course we will. We will find a
way. We'll do good work. But for the woman who has turned to us for breast cancer
screening, or a cervical cancer screening or an HIV test, where is she going to turn
now, the state of Ohio has no answer for that today."
Once the bill is passed, Kasich is expected to sign it. And when that happens,
Kight is not ruling out a lawsuit.
"We'll certainly look at every option."
While some state lawmakers were dealing with the Planned Parenthood bill, some House
members were hearing testimony on two bills that would put restrictions on how
abortion clinics handle fetal remains. The legislation would also require women to
designate whether the fetal remains should be disposed of through burial or
cremation. Those bills came about after Attorney General Mike DeWine announced late
last year that fetal remains from abortion clinics had ultimately ended up in
landfills. A Democratic lawmaker questioned whether that certificate signed by the
woman seeking abortion might become a public document but Ohio Right to Life's
Stephanie Krider says that's not what her group wants.
"Our intent is not to make those documents public. Our intent is not to put all of
this out there so, I'm not sure who would but if somebody wanted to search and find
out how this baby's remains came about, our intent is not to do that."
Still, some Democrats on that committee are questioning the details of it. And they
look forward to the next hearing in the House committee when opponents can testify
and raise questions. Democrats say they have their own questions about why bills
involving abortion are getting so much attention right now when their bills on
increasing the minimum wage, equal pay, college affordability and other economic
issues are stalled in the legislature. Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni is one
"These are perfect examples of the misplaced priorities that continue to dominate
the calendar here in Columbus. It's time to start focusing on what really matters.
Too many people are struggling to make ends meet."
The timing of all of this is interesting. Gov. Kasich has talked about defunding
Planned Parenthood in his presidential campaign. Banning abortion is popular with
voters in the Republican primary so signing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood
right before key primaries would likely be noticed by conservative voters. Because
the bill was amended by the Senate, it still needs to be okayed again by the House,
and then Kasich could sign it. That could happen as early as next week - but maybe
not before the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday but before the New Hampshire primary on