Furor Erupts in State Legislature Over Planned Parenthood Bill

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Planned Parenthood of Ohio is eligible for state and federal dollars to help pay for family planning services for low-income women. John Coates, the executive Director of Ohio Right to Life, says there are many other community health clinics and private practices that have been providing those same services to low-income women. And Coates says they deserve to get funding, too.

COATES: "Furthermore, there are many hospitals and free clinics around the state that provide these same services in addition to primary care and comprehensive health care, often at little or no cost to the patient."

Backers of the bill say it would reprioritize funding for family planning to allocate it more fairly and provide more options for health providers for women. Republican lawmaker Jay Hottinger says Planned Parenthood focuses its services on low-income women in urban areas, leaving many women in rural areas without these services. And he says even in urban areas, there are a lot of clinics providing important services for women that should be getting government dollars, too.

HOTTINGER: "For example, in Cincinnati, there are four planned parenthood. There are 33 breast and cervical cancer screening centers in Cincinnati. Cleveland, I talked about two Planned Parenthood facilities. There are 11 breast and cervical centers. Dayton goes from one to 18. Toledo one to 16. Columbus five to 12. Youngstown one to 11. In regards to access, how is this not significantly -- a significant improvement?"

Denise Leipold, Executive Director of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio says while Planned Parenthood is not allowed, by law, to use government money for abortions, the money it does get for other services allows the organization to free up its own dollars for that purpose.

LEIPOLD: "91 percent of all pregnant clients that go into Planned Parenthood come out with an abortion. That is clear statistics that show that abortion is indeed a method of family planning at Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood disputes that claim. It says federal money is separated and not used for abortion. And it says abortion makes up only a very small part of the services the organization provides.

As lawmakers came out of the committee hearing, they were greeted by a long line of Planned Parenthood supporters who lined the hallway, chanting.

After the hearing, backers of Planned Parenthood told reporters why this bill should not pass. Dr. Rob Crane, from Columbus, says Planned Parenthood saves the government money in the long run. And he cites a study that shows the more access women have to reliable birth control, the fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions.

CRANE: "So they should be actually providing Planned Parenthood with more money to give good long-acting contraception rather than reducing it. This is not just a war on women. This is a war on reason."

Democrats say majority Republicans in the Ohio Statehouse should not be trying to defund Planned Parenthood. State Senator Nina Turner says she’s sick of the legislature, made up of mostly men, trying to take good birth control options away from Ohio women.

TURNER: "You know, the GOP, if they had their way, the Grand Old Party had their way, they’d want women barefoot, pregnant and back home by 5 o'clock p.m. to cook dinner with no voices and no choices. And, as one woman tweeted me yesterday, back in a binder."

Turner says lawmakers should have gotten the message in last week’s elections that most Ohio women do not want lawmakers to be tackling these types of issues.

TURNER: "It is funny that our Republican colleagues always like to wax poetic about smal government while they want government small enough to fit inside a woman’s womb. And we are sick of it, we are tired of it and we are not going to take it any more."

Even if the plan ends up getting full approval in the Ohio House, it would still have to pass the Ohio Senate before becoming law and the clock is ticking. The two year legislative session ends when the year ends.

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