Ohio lawmakers eyeing plan to re-prioritize federal grant spending.
COLUMBUS — An ideological battle about abortion is being waged in the Ohio Statehouse as lawmakers consider a bill that would essentially take away federal family planning grants from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio.
Legislators last month removed a plan to include the funding changes in a budget bill, but now the plan has returned in House Bill 298, which is pending before the House Health Committee.
The bill calls for setting up a ranking system that would put certain health care providers last in line for federal family planning money. The ranking would be as follows:
1. Local health departments.
2. Community health centers.
3. Private doctors who provide comprehensive care as well as family planning services.
4. Centers that only deliver family planning services.
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio receives about $1.6 million a year in federal funds that are passed through the state Department of Health.
Federal law prohibits tax money from being used to provide abortions. Planned Parenthood uses the grant money to offer Pap smears, breast exams, contraceptives and other services. Abortions, which are performed at three of Planned Parenthood’s 32 centers in Ohio, are funded with nontax money.
Anti-abortion advocates are lobbying for the bill.
Sarah Cleveland, an ultrasound technician and an anti-abortion activist, said Planned Parenthood is a business that encourages minors to hide information from their parents, and deceives women about fetal development.
“This is an organization that nobody should want to do business with, but if one so chooses, let them by their own free will,” Cleveland said.
“As for the rest of us who are no longer buying into the lies and who want to expose them, let us have the right to keep our money out of the pockets of Planned Parenthood,” Cleveland said.
Planned Parenthood officials say the funding change means low-income patients may be forced to pay higher fees for the health care services.
“Our patients are not coming to Planned Parenthood to make a political statement, they are coming to get health care from a trusted health care provider that has been an important part of Ohio’s health care network for more than 80 years,” said Beth Lonn, interim chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio. Lonn was unable to answer legislators’ questions about what percentage of her budget comes from the federal family planning grant money that would be re-prioritized.
Health Committee Chairman Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, who stridently opposes abortion, said he is unsure whether the bill will receive a committee vote before the House recesses for a long summer break.