Panel weighs Ohio bill aimed at Planned Parenthood’s funds

By Ann Sanner - Associated Press

COLUMBUS (AP) — An Ohio bill that seeks to divert government funding away from Planned Parenthood appeared headed for its final legislative hurdles on Wednesday.

The measure targets the roughly $1.3 million that Planned Parenthood receives through the Ohio Department of Health. The funding, which is mostly federal, supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings and prevention of violence against women.

The bill 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. It would not affect the overall amount of money available for such initiatives, just who could get it.

Both the Ohio House and state Senate passed separate versions of the measure last year. Legislative leaders recently agreed to advance the House’s bill.

The Senate was expected to vote on the legislation Wednesday afternoon after a committee heard testimony and approved the measure.

The Senate committee amended the bill to send $250,000 to the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers. As part of an effort to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate, the group would use the money to share best practices in safe sleep, birth spacing and smoking cessation.

The bill follows an outcry among abortion opponents around the country after the release of secretly recorded videos by activists alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law. Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing, saying a handful of its clinics provided fetal tissue for research while receiving only permissible reimbursement for costs.

Three of Planned Parenthood’s 28 locations in Ohio provide abortions. The organization has said it has no fetal tissue donation program in Ohio, where such donations are illegal.

While Ohio’s legislation does not specifically name Planned Parenthood, the bill’s sponsors have acknowledged that the organization will be the most affected and backers have pointed to the videos as reason to support the funding restrictions. They say the money should go to health centers and other providers that do not perform abortions.

Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said the anti-abortion group has been working to strip taxpayer money away from Planned Parenthood long before the videos.

“Our taxpayer funds are not meant to be providing abortions or supporting the abortion business,” she told reporters Wednesday.

A Planned Parenthood leader said the legislation would most heavily impact the organization’s health education and prevention program funding. Still, Stephanie Kight, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, emphasized their facilities in Ohio would remain open and provide health care services if the bill passes.

Kight said the organization has received the targeted money through a competitive process. She called the bill “a shameful moment” for state lawmakers. “They have used this legislation to make a political statement and boost their careers,” she told reporters.

Asked whether the organization would sue over the legislation, Kight said, “We’ll certainly look at every option.”

By Ann Sanner

Associated Press