Ohio senators successfully passed a two-year budget Thursday filled with anti-choice amendments that could severely restrict access to birth control, accurate medical information, and safe abortion care. Attempts by pro-choice senators to strip some of the most extreme measures from the budget were unsuccessful, and the final version of the budget passed 23-10.
During last year’s state budget negotiations, the Ohio legislature attempted to remove financial support from the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates, but they dropped that effort amid public outcry. This year, however, emboldened by redistricting and secure in new, gerrymandered seats, many state politicians have chosen to go a step further, not only attempting to defund Planned Parenthood but also providing public funds to deceptive crisis pregnancy centers and creating more restrictions on agreements between hospitals and clinics that offer abortions to ultimately force multiple clinics to close.
By adding amendments into the state budget, the anti-choice majority in the house and senate has turned the bill into an anti-choice omnibus bill. The state measure to defund Planned Parenthood could leave as many as 11 counties in Ohio without access to subsidized family planning services, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. The budget would use funds set aside for supporting low-income families via the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and give it to non-medical crisis pregnancy centers, known for their deceptive anti-choice tactics.
The state would also put in place unprecedented new restrictions on clinics that provides abortions. An amendment added to the budget would forbid any transfer agreements between public hospitals and abortion clinics, severely limiting the options for clinics seeking to operate legally in the state. The proposal, which was written in direct reaction to an ongoing issue with two Toledo abortion clinics trying to obtain new transfer agreements to comply with current state requirements, would make it nearly impossible for many clinics to operate by eliminating many hospitals from the pool of potential facilities. Without public hospitals as an option, clinics would only be able to request agreements from private hospitals, which are likely to refuse them, either because of religious affiliation or disinterest in opening themselves up to controversy for an agreement that is unlikely to have any financial gains for for-profit hospitals.
The transfer agreement amendment would also allow transfer agreements to be more easily canceled by the state health department, and would make it more difficult for a clinic to get a variance if it cannot meet the requirements. The law already requires that clinics be supported by two doctors to be considered for a variance; with the new provision in place neither of those doctors would be allowed to have any affiliation with a public hospital.
Democrats in the state senate made a concerted effort to remove the amendments meant to restrict access to birth control, abortion, and other reproductive health-care needs, especially for low-income women, but their efforts failed in the face of the anti-choice majority. “Some folks in the General Assembly are out on a witch hunt vendetta against Planned Parenthood,” state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland), told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “A memo to all the women of the state of Ohio, especially if you are poor: Father knows best. Women know nothing, but father knows best.”
The senate and house will now send their bills to committee to negotiate any discrepancies between the two versions; all anti-choice language is expected to remain intact. The final version will be re-approved by both chambers, and sent to the desk of Republican Gov. John Kasich, who can either sign the full bill, or veto out individual line items that he does not believe should be made law.