On Monday, Ohio became the fourth GOP-led state to agree to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Gov. John Kasich (R) has been pressuring his fellow Republicans to expand the public program for months, and finally secured the necessary support with a 5–2 vote from a special panel of seven lawmakers.
That decision isn’t sitting well with some conservatives in the state, however. Two anti-abortion groups and six Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to prevent the state from accepting the federal money intended to fund the Medicaid expansion. They contend that it was illegal to go around the legislature to approve the move through a special committee.
The Associated Press reports that the Right to Life chapters in Cleveland and Cincinnati are joining the lawsuit because they “oppose the use of federal funding for expansion and wanted the chance to debate the issue with the Legislature, according to the filing.”
It’s unclear why that’s a priority for the anti-choice groups. Some abortion opponents have taken issue with the health reform law because they believe it expands access to taxpayer-funded abortion services, but that’s a misrepresentation. Obamacare doesn’t designate any federal funding for abortion coverage — and federal Medicaid dollars are already banned from covering abortion under the Hyde Amendment.
Although these two anti-abortion groups are concerned about the potential legal implications of circumventing the legislative process to expand Medicaid, abortion opponents in Ohio don’t have that same concern for every issue. Over the summer, the anti-choice community celebrated its biggest victory in years after successfully inserting several abortion restrictions into the state’s two-year budget. That was an effective way to indirectly launch attacks on reproductive access, but it may have also been against state law. The ACLU is suing Ohio over the new budget because the group claims it violates a law that stipulates legislation must adhere to a single subject.
Ohio’s Medicaid expansion would extend health coverage to between 275,000 and 33,000 low-income residents who don’t currently have insurance. Kasich, who has explained his support for expanding Medicaid by pointing to his religious convictions about caring for the poor, has repeatedly indicated that he doesn’t understand the persistent opposition to the program.
“Why is that some people don’t get it?” Kasich asked during an event last week to promote the expansion. “Is it because they’re hard-hearted or cold-hearted? It’s probably because they don’t understand the problem because they have never walked in somebody’s shoes.”