As our Budget Watcher noted, the big news from the Legislature today was a vote to effectively defund Planned Parenthood. According to the AP story, the Republicans sought to “avoid constitutional issues” by placing “Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for money rather than defunding it entirely.”
Don’t believe it.
The law passed has a number of significant legal and constitutional consequences. The Dispatch notes that the Ohio plan is modeled after a law passed in Texas. So Texas provides a pretty good example of what to expect.
Others can discuss why this is a really bad idea from a policy standpoint. I will focus here on the legal aspects.
If this bill becomes a law, Texas shows that two bad things will happen to Ohio.
First, as we noted back in February, this law is unconstitutional. We won’t repeat the whole post here – but here is the summary: a federal judge has already ruled that a state plan to reallocate federal family planning in a way that leaves little or no money for Planned Parenthood or similar groups violates the Free Speech, Association, and Due Process rights of Planned Parenthood. This is because the law is designed to punish Planned Parenthood for its advocacy of abortion rights and provision of constitutionally protected medical services.
Last week, Planned Parenthood Parenthood and other organizations sued the State of Texas in Federal Court. The claim in the lawsuit is precisely what the other federal ruled: that the new Texas law was intended to silence individuals or groups who support abortion rights and thereby violated their constitutional rights. The Houston Chronicle surveyed some legal experts about the lawsuit. A law professor from the University of Houston noted that “Planned Parenthood has a strong case.” Another professor from Texas Tech said that if the Texas court follows the line of reasoning as other courts, “it probably will find that the state is violating the First Amendment.”
This means: Ohio will likely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses defending a law that likely will be found to be unconstitutional.
Second, as we noted back in February, this action violates Federal law. Federal law provides that service providers, like Planned Parenthood, may not be excluded from funding simply because they separately provide abortion services (which already cannot be paid for with federal money). Texas no longer receives millions of dollars in federal funding for family-planning and preventive care programs. The Department of Health and Human Services determined that, because of this law, Texas was no longer eligible to receive funds that paid for these services for about 130,000 Texas women.
This means: Ohio risks losing federal money used by all providers – not just Planned Parenthood – to provide family planning and preventative care services to Ohio women. Planned Parenthood and similar providers could lose the the $1.4 million they use to provide services to women under this new bill. But that is only part of the story. Ohio actually receives $9.8 million from the federal government in family planning dollars.
If this bill becomes a law and if, as we suspect, it is deemed unconstitutional, then Ohio will lose all $9.8 million from the federal government for family planning and preventive care services for women.