February 22, 2016; CNN
On Sunday, Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich signed a bill that prohibits the state from contracting with any organization that performs or promotes abortions. While the bill didn’t directly mention Planned Parenthood, its passing effectively blocks approximately $1 million dollars in funding towards the organization’s services, which include HIV testing, health screenings, and violence prevention.
While Kasich’s signature on this bill was expected, it marks another setback in a long, political battle that Planned Parenthood is fighting state by state to maintain access to critical government funding in order to continue providing health services to women.
The longstanding political heat on Planned Parenthood was intensified last year when Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick called for an investigation of Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released their now-debunked fetal tissue videos. Planned Parenthood countersued the activist group, saying its methods of obtaining the basic content in the much-edited video were fraudulent and misrepresented the organization’s services. Planned Parenthood was ultimately victorious in that battle, with the grand jury actually indicting the videographers rather than the organization they had been charged to investigate.
That did not slow much down as far as state persecutions of the organization went, and Governor Kasich’s action is a reminder that the political battle may be a harder one to fight than the legal. Already, Texas, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Arizona have defunded the organization based on the CMP videos. Kasich also refers to the incident as part of the reason to defund these health services, commenting that Planned Parenthood is an organization that has “discredited” itself, despite the fact that the legal findings imply otherwise.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards swiftly responded to Kasich’s signing, noting that this legislation, driven by political opposition to more controversial services like abortion and fetal tissue donation, actually cuts off a much wider range of critical health services:
This legislation will have devastating consequences for women across Ohio. John Kasich is proudly eliminating care for expectant mothers and newborns; he is leaving thousands without vital STD and HIV testing, slashing a program to fight domestic violence, and cutting access to essential, basic health care.
When asked directly what the impact of defunding Planned Parenthood would have on issues such as women’s health and the rise of STDs, Kasich points to the 150 other eligible grantees and contractors that partner with the Ohio Department of Health. In an interview with CNN, Kasich says pointedly, “While we don’t support Planned Parenthood, we do support a robust funding of women’s health. We just can’t operate through that organization any more, they have lost credibility. We are going to make sure that we have the places that women can go to get the treatment they need.”
Kasich did not go into detail around the capacity or services provided by these alternate service providers, but he has taken a consistently strong stand against abortion before and during his presidential campaign.
In a year focused on a presidential and congressional elections, and with a newly vacant seat on the Supreme Court, the politicizing of Planned Parenthood’s services and funding, as well as other nonprofit organizations with advocacy and services that align with political profiles on both sides of the aisle, will continue to be elevated.—Danielle Holly