In November, Tom Niehaus, then the Ohio Senate president, halted legislation that would have reduced sharply funding for Planned Parenthood in Ohio. The decision of the Cincinnati Republican reflected a long consensus or bipartisan backing of the family planning organization. He pointed to the entirety of its work, to the “much needed services that are not available other places.”
Planned Parenthood plays a crucial role in communities, enhancing the overall health of women, providing access to a range of preventive care, from birth control to pap tests, from information to treatment. All of that has not been good enough for House Republicans. They are trying again to restrict public funding for Planned Parenthood. They have sent to the Senate a state budget plan that includes a provision reworking the way public money is distributed for family planning.
Their proposed formula would move Planned Parenthood to the back of the line. The state would give up its current competitive grant process. Instead, the money would flow first to public health agencies and federally qualified health centers.
The concern about such a change is that those newly placed at the top of the funding pyramid are not as well equipped. There is good reason why Planned Parenthood has prevailed in the merit-driven process for granting family planning money. It understands the landscape and has a strong record of delivering the care and services.
Worth noting is that a House Republican majority ordinarily sympathetic to private alternatives and competitive bidding in this case favors the public option first at the expense of competition.
Why? The House majority embraces the view, as expressed at a recent legislative hearing by the Rev. John Coats, the president of Ohio Right to Life, of moving “scarce public resources out of the hands of the abortion industry.” Yet just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services provide for abortion. More, abortion services remain legal, and “good work,” as Stephanie Kight, the president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, rightly argued, stressing the importance of the option for women, difficult as the choice is.
Follow the path of the House, and Planned Parenthood would lose roughly $1.5 million a year, diminishing its capacity to provide needed services to those who otherwise have limited access. Harmed, too, would be its role in family planning — a leading tool in reducing abortions.
The hope is, the Ohio Senate will hold to the thinking of Tom Niehaus, who exited due to term limits, and block the House provision. Planned Parenthood long has made a most valuable contribution to women’s health, in urban and rural areas. It deserves better than to be viewed through a narrow and harshly partisan prism.