COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate is poised to act on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.
The chamber’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee had its initial hearing on HB 294 the evening of Jan. 26, with sponsors of the legislation and dozens of other witnesses — proponents and opponents — submitting testimony.
The panel had another hearing scheduled for this morning, leaving time for a floor vote as soon as this afternoon’s session.
The legislation, which passed the Ohio House in November, would require the Ohio Department of Health to ensure public funds are being used for their intended purpose — the legislation lists breast and cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS initiatives and other specific programs — and not for abortions.
Funds from the specified programs would be blocked for groups that perform abortions or have contracts or are affiliated with providers of such services.
Planned Parenthood received more than $2 million in public funding through the state health department in 2014. Under HB 294, those funds would go to other community health centers.
Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Butler County) said the legislation would help “women and children by focusing the dollars on staying healthy.”
“There are 450 alternative health-care providers across the state and over 180 pregnancy help centers available to ensure that women and children are receiving comprehensive health-care and family planning services,” she told senators Tuesday evening. “There are also over 200 community health clinics, 124 health districts and 55 free clinics across the state that do not perform or promote non-therapeutic abortions… There is no shortage of the health care in the state of Ohio.”
The legislation was introduced after video recordings released last year showed Planned Parenthood employees allegedly discussing the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses.
Opponents of the legislation said the video recordings were heavily edited and that Planned Parenthood does not sell or otherwise illegally transfer fetal tissue.
Earlier this week, the individuals behind the recordings reportedly were indicted in Texas on a felony charge of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor charge related to buying human tissue.
Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) noted during Tuesday’s hearing that public dollars are not used for non-therapeutic abortions. She also questioned whether community health centers and other facilities would have the capacity to provide services to needy Ohioans who currently use Planned Parenthood.
“What evidence do you have that they can really pick up the slack outside of the fact that we have a list of providers?” Cafaro asked. “Do we know that they’re actually taking on new patients? How many of them actually provide the services that are available by those that provide non-therapeutic abortion services? In the surveys that we did blindly, what we found was that most of these providers either did not provide the services … nor did we find that they were maybe potentially taking new patients or they didn’t have a sliding scale fee.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.