Eds: Updates with background on legislation, remarks from hearing. Adds byline. Will be updated from ongoing Senate session.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio bill that seeks to divert more than $1 million in government funding away from Planned Parenthood was headed for a state Senate vote Wednesday after dozens of opponents told a legislative committee that the proposal could limit access to pregnancy prevention resources and other health care initiatives.
The proposal targets taxpayer money that the organization receives through programs administered by the Ohio Department of Health. The grant dollars, which are mostly federal, support programs on infant mortality, HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings and the prevention of violence against women. The bill would restrict such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions, their affiliates and those that contract with an entity that performs abortions.
The measure, which was sponsored by the Senate’s Republican leader, cleared the chamber’s Government and Oversight Committee along party lines earlier Wednesday after its second hearing. A similar bill is pending in the House.
Senate President Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, has cited recently released, covertly filmed videos from anti-abortion activists as a reason for lawmakers to support the funding limits.
Those activists have contended that Planned Parenthood officials sought profits from their programs providing post-abortion fetal tissue to researchers. Planned Parenthood has said the videos were deceptively edited and has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of costs.
Faber told the committee in testimony last week that it was “sickening” for him to know that the organization received taxpayer dollars.
“Whether you call yourself pro-life or pro-choice, I think most people have an issue with taxpayer dollars going to an organization that seeks to profit off of the harvest of body parts from the unborn,” Faber said.
Such tissue donations are illegal in Ohio, and a Planned Parenthood state leader has said no donation program exists here.
The proposal would not affect the overall amount of program money available for distribution to organizations, just which ones could get the dollars.
Planned Parenthood treats nearly 80,000 women and men at its 27 affiliated health centers across Ohio. Three locations provide abortions.
Stephanie Kight, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and head of its advocacy arm, told reporters the bill would almost eliminate the organization’s health education and prevention program funding, which it has won from the state’s health department through a competitive application process.
“The state of Ohio selected Planned Parenthood because we were the most effective and efficient providers of those grants,” Kight said.
With dozens of opponents prepared to testify Wednesday morning to a Senate committee, the panel’s chairman sought to limit individuals’ remarks on the bill to two minutes each. Questions of the witnesses were only allowed after all the testimony was delivered.
Many of those opposed to the bill told personal stories of their visits to Planned Parenthood centers. Others argued the measure could create health care access issues.
“With paramount goals of increasing woman’s health, decreasing infectious disease and reducing infant mortality, we are afraid that prohibiting funding and collaboration with Planned Parenthood will make achieving these goals more difficult,” said Kelli Arthur Hykes, director of public health policy for Columbus Public Health.