After a lengthy and heated hearing, an Ohio bill meant to defund Planned Parenthood cleared a House committee on Wednesday by an 11-9 vote along party lines. House Bill 298, ostensibly about re-prioritizing federal family planning money, seeks to strip $1.7 million from Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. According to Planned Parenthood Ohio CEO Stephanie Knight, nearly 100,000 Ohio women depend on the organization for health care — overwhelmingly for preventative care including cancer screenings and birth control.
As Innovation Ohio notes, just two Planned Parenthood affiliates out of 36 family planning organizations received the federal grants in question, undermining the bill’s false pretense that other organizations are being overlooked in favor of Planned Parenthood.
Every single medical professional present testified against the bill. Dr. Grant Morrow of Nationwide Children’s Hospital decried HB 298 as the result of a “political agenda” that would have a devastating impact, primarily on poor and young women. Planned Parenthood is frequently a punching bag for many conservative politicians, despite the fact that abortions comprise only 3 percent of services provided by the women’s health organization. And as Dr. Kimberley Shepherd, a Columbus-based OB-GYN, testified during the hearing, defunding Planned Parenthood in Ohio would jeopardize cancer prevention screenings, STI care, hypertension testing, and many of the preventative measures the organization provides to low-income women.
Religious groups also sent multiple representatives to testify against HB 298. Former state representative Marian Harris of the National Council of Jewish Women argued that no one religious viewpoint should receive preferential treatment under the law, and pointed out that the legislation would gut funding for family planning clinics. Religious leaders also testified in support of Planned Parenthood, including a rabbi, a Lutheran minister, and a United Methodist minister.
And a rape survivor named Emily Shaw gave an emotional testimony about how she relied on Planned Parenthood services after she was raped at 13.
According to State Senator Nina Turner (D-OH), exit polls from Election Day showed that 56 percent of Ohioans support legal abortion all or most of the time, while just 39 percent thought it should be illegal. Nevertheless, HB 298 is just one example of the radical anti-choice legislation currently being considered by the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio. Republicans in the state are also reviving a “heartbeat” bill that would categorically criminalize abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, representing the most restrictive ban in the country.
The bill will advance to a floor vote once it receives one more vote, most likely from one of three Republican members who were absent this afternoon. The rolls will be left open Thursday morning to get the required 12 votes.