The Fight Isn’t Over

By Kellie Copeland, executive director, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio

Last month, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said, “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.”

Last week, anti-choice politicians on the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee added an amendment to the mid-biennium budget designed to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio.

In response, tens of thousands of pro-choice Ohioans overwhelmed the Ohio House with emails, letters and phone calls opposing that politically motivated attack on reproductive health care in our state.  As a result the amendment was removed in committee, and today the budget bill passed the Ohio House without that toxic language.

It is tempting to claim victory. But we cannot.  This is just the beginning.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, told the Columbus Dispatch, “This issue is not over and it’s not the last you’re going to hear from Ohio Right to Life.” They are pushing the Ohio Senate to add their amendment back into the budget.

This measure is so poorly written that Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder admitted that they “don’t know what [it] does.” But Batchelder said it does “create[s] some very serious problems in terms of the relationship between local hospitals and the welfare department….” Yikes!

The truth is it is even worse than Batchelder lets on.  This amendment wouldn’t just defund Planned Parenthood (though that would be bad enough), it also defunds other non-profit organizations that provide critical reproductive health care services—including contraceptives, cancer screenings and testing and treatments for STI’s.  When these organizations lose funding, there is no guarantee in the amendment that funding will be given to another health care provider in the area.  That means that thousands of Ohioans could loss access to their only sources of reproductive health care services.  Cancer will go undetected.  STIs will go untreated.  Unintended pregnancies will increase. Women will suffer.

So you see, Planned Parenthood may be the target, but the women (and men) of Ohio are the ones that will pay the price.  And that appears to be just fine with Ohio Right to Life since they never bothered to talk to county health departments and other centers that will be expected to take on the patients that will be displaced by their amendment.  They never bothered to find out if they even have the capacity to accept more patients with more funding.  Guess what.  Some of them don’t.

When extremists are allowed to dictate policy – no surprise – you get bad policy.

Now the fight moves to the Ohio Senate.  We must let senators know, in no uncertain terms, that we will not tolerate any attempts to bring this dangerous amendment back into the budget.  Click here to write to your senator today.  Then call Senate President Tom Niehaus at (614) 466-8082 and tell him not to play politics with women’s health.

We must keep the pressure on until Governor John Kasich signs the budget.  Scratch that, we must keep the pressure on until we defeat Mitt Romney and stop him from “getting rid” of Planned Parenthood—a trusted and respected provider of reproductive health care for over 100 years.  That’s what it will take to safeguard the health of Ohio women and their families.

Let’s do it.