When Gov. John Kasich rolled out his budget plan early this year, he praised its job-creating provisions, dubbing the plan “Jobs Budget 2.0.” But in a bizarre turn of events, the latest versions of the budget passed by the Ohio House and Senate focus largely on abortion rights.
The latest version from the Ohio Senate would effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and give the state health director powers that could be used to shut down abortion clinics with little to no cause.
To their credit, opponents of abortion rights are being upfront about the measures, praising them for promoting “abstinence” and “chastity.” State legislators have outright said that Planned Parenthood would keep its funding if it didn’t provide abortion services.
The problem: Planned Parenthood does not use a single public cent for abortion services. It can’t even think about it — it’s against the law. Right now, Planned Parenthood provides the services through private contributions.
So what legislators are actually defunding are Planned Parenthood’s other services, including family planning, prenatal care, birth control education and sexually transmitted infection treatment. In other words, the services almost no one has a problem with.
Joined by supporters, Planned Parenthood of Ohio President Stephanie Kight has repeatedly reminded the Ohio House and Senate of these facts through multiple budget hearings.
But the zeal is strong with Ohio Republicans. To them, those facts apparently don’t matter, and they’re going to continue trying to defund Planned Parenthood anyway.
The Ohio House and Senate bills also propose shifting some federal welfare funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which effectively act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternative to family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood.
It would be fine if crisis pregnancy centers just provided another option for women, particularly the religious. But an investigation from NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found crisis pregnancy centers are, at best, judgmental and, at worst, completely misleading. In its self-described “undercover investigation,” NARAL found 47 percent of crisis pregnancy centers gave misleading information about abortions and mental health problems, and 48 percent gave false information about abortions, breast cancer and infertility.
It’s one thing to oppose abortion rights on religious grounds or to have different perspectives about the conception of life. Those are philosophical, personal issues. But giving patients false medical information is misleading and contradicts health care providers’ primary purpose.
The two funding measures were first approved by the Ohio House. When the Ohio Senate got its turn at the budget process, it approved the House’s changes and added a provision that could be used by the state health director to shut down abortion clinics. Under the Ohio Senate’s new rules, abortion clinics will not be able to set transfer agreements with public hospitals, and the state health director could revoke transfer agreements without cause and shut down abortion clinics that don’t have transfer agreements.
For abortion clinics, the rules will make it difficult to get transfer agreements at all because the agreements will have to be set with private hospitals, which are more likely to be religious and oppose abortion rights. And without the agreement, the state health director could shut down the clinic.
The end — and likely intended — result: Many abortion clinics will be shut down.
All of this in a budget that was supposed to be focused on jobs.
So far, Gov. John Kasich has been unclear on whether he’ll veto the anti-abortion measures. When asked about it while speaking at Bowling Green State University on June 10, Kasich said, “First of all, I’m pro-life.” He added, “We’ll have to see how this proceeds through the House and the Senate conference committee and have just got to wait and see how it goes, then I’ll make a decision as to whether I think it goes too far or doesn’t, but keep in mind that I’m pro-life.”
That may be true, but Kasich is also running for re-election in 2014. Polls have repeatedly found Ohioans supportive of both Planned Parenthood and legal access to abortion in all or most circumstances. Democrats carried the election in 2012 largely because of support from single women, who support their own abortion rights in big majorities.
“Pro-life” or not, there are electoral facts to consider. As Ohio heads into its next gubernatorial election, abortion rights advocates should hope that Kasich keeps those facts in mind.
CONTACT GERMAN LOPEZ: [email protected] or @germanrlopez