On Thursday, the Ohio Senate will vote on a two-year budget plan for the state. The proposed legislation includes provisions to modernize the state’s telephone system, improve infrastructure investments, and cut taxes for small businesses. But, in addition to those initiatives, Ohio’s abortion opponents are hijacking the budget negotiations to push an agenda that has nothing to do with the state’s economy — seizing the opportunity to launch several attacks on women’s health.
As Media Matters points out, some mainstream news outlets in Ohio are focusing on the central issues in the budget without explicitly noting the anti-abortion battles brewing underneath the surface. But, thanks to several provisions tacked on by state Republicans, here’s how Ohio’s proposed budget seriously undermines women’s reproductive access:
1. Defunds Planned Parenthood. Back in April, Ohio’s anti-choice lawmakers amended the budget bill to “re-prioritize” family planning funds in the state. That would ultimately strip about $2 million dollars from the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. Abortion opponents in Ohio have been especially intent on targeting the national women’s health organization lately. This represents the third time the state’s lawmakers have attempted to defund Planned Parenthood within the past year.
2. Redirects funding to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers.” Instead of ensuring that Planned Parenthood has the state funding it needs to continue providing preventative health services to an estimated 100,000 Ohio women, the current budget amendment seeks to reallocate family planning money toward “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs). In fact, CPCs are anti-abortion front groups that attempt to dissuade women from choosing to end their pregnancies, and they don’t provide the same health services as Planned Parenthood does. They often don’t employ medical professionals, and they have a long history of using conservative propaganda to prey on vulnerable women who assume they’re receiving care at a full-service health clinic.
3. Threatens to shut down abortion clinics. A Senate committee also added language to the budget bill specifically intended to target abortion providers. The provision in question would ban public hospitals from having “transfer agreements” with abortion clinics to transfer patients who may experience medical complications there. But in Ohio, many abortion providers can’t get licensed by the state’s Department of Health unless they have this type of transfer agreement. If abortion clinics are blocked from fulfilling the current requirements to maintain their license, they will be forced to close their doors. Imposing burdensome requirements on abortion providers, rather than pushing to ban the abortion procedure outright, is a popular anti-choice tactic that’s advancing in states across the country.
4. Strips funding from rape crisis centers that provide women with information about abortion services. The Senate added language from another proposed piece of legislation, HB 108, to the budget bill. That measure would deny state funding to any rape crisis centers that refer their patients to facilities that provide abortion care. Just like the provisions targeting Planned Parenthood, Ohio lawmakers claim this measure is necessary to ensure that state funds don’t finance abortion. But there’s already a state law that prevents that funding from directly paying for abortion services. And preventing rape victims from accessing abortion services is an extremely unpopular policy among the American public.
The state budget has been a battleground for unrelated sexual health fights for months. In April, Republicans tacked on a budget amendment that would have prevented health classes in Ohio’s public schools from providing students with any information that might promote “gateway sexual activity,” like kissing. After that proposal sparked an outcry, Ohio lawmakers dropped the sex ed provision — but advanced the other attacks on women’s health.
At the end of Ohio’s last legislative session, lawmakers gave up on several pieces of controversial anti-abortion legislation, including a “heartbeat” measure that would have banned abortion after just six weeks of pregnancy. At the time, State Speaker Tom Niehaus (R) explained, “I want to continue my focus on jobs and the economy.” But if the current fight over the state’s budget is any indication, that hasn’t exactly proven to be the case.
On Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Senate advanced the budget bill by a 23–10 vote along party lines, with the anti-abortion provisions intact.