A plan was rushed through the Senate on Wednesday to take money away from abortion providers. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports.
It’s been called the bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. And the group’s president and CEO, Stephanie Kight, says it will cost Planned Parenthood about $1.4 million. That’s money that goes on to fund things like health education, infant mortality reduction programs and prevention initiatives such as HIV testing.
“Here’s the real impact. It’s on a young teen in southern Ohio who has nowhere else to turn or a young mother who needs birth control, none of these women care about the political shenanigans that happened here today, they care about getting their health care and we cannot and will not forget about those women,” said Kight.
Dozens of people lined up at a Senate hearing to tell the lawmakers about Planned Parenthood and how its programs improve the health of their communities especially for low-income Ohioans.
But Republican Senator Bill Coley of West Chester said there are hundreds of local health departments and community health centers that can fill the gap on those services.
“Organizations that have a much more pro-life and pro-birth attitude towards legislation and the world than Planned Parenthood has," said Coley.
Julie Moore with Pregnancy Decision Health Centers says her organization is one of the groups that can step in to provide services for the community. She says moving people away from Planned Parenthood would open the door to more comprehensive services.
“Also there’s just the benefit to taxpayers of knowing that their taxpayer dollars are not going to fund abortion providers,” Moore explained.
But, according to Kight, there’s a reason Planned Parenthood keeps getting that money for those testing and education programs. It’s because they keep winning the grants for which they compete.
“So nothing here was just given to us. It was awarded to us in a competitive process and some of the providers they’re talking about saying -- ‘we’ll give that money to those other providers’ -- they competed with us and the state of Ohio didn’t select them because they don’t have the capacity,” Kight said.
The bill passed the Senate along party lines after holding just two committee meetings. That’s rare for a bill dealing with policy, but that kind of speed has happened with controversial bills. During the committee meeting to hear opponents of the plan, Coley, the chair of the panel, limited the witnesses to just two minutes each. Again, that’s a practice that’s usually only used during the long budget process.
Several people, including Kight, said this was not a fair process for what they deemed to be such an important bill.
“We would think that our elected officials would want to hear the voices of every single one of the citizens who wanted to speak to them today and I think it’s shameful that they cut the ability of people who traveled long distances to come and share their personal stories with them,” Kight said.
Coley said he made the decision to cut witnesses short because more than 50 people signed up to testify.
Coley: “And then the people who come in towards the end, they run out of time or their testifying in 2 in the morning in front of the committee chairman and that’s it.”
Chow: “Well then why not a third hearing then, what’s the rush?”
Coley: “Well the important thing is, this is important legislation and we want to move it as quickly as possible. I think there’s a broad consensus for the bill.”
The bill now moves to the House where a similar measure has already been introduced.
Andy Chow at the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau.