After a federal appeals court upheld an Ohio law to cut off state funding to abortion providers last week, the Ohio Department of Health informed Planned Parenthood on Thursday that its flow of state dollars will cease in 30 days.

A 2016 law signed into effect by then-Gov. John Kasich sought to slash Planned Parenthood’s funding because the organization performs abortions. The law was originally struck down by a federal district judge, then by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But the full appellate court upheld the measure, reversing the other judges' findings.

As of Tuesday — when the law went into affect — the state health department was supposed to comply with the ruling and terminate funding to abortion providers, sending off its 30-day notice to abortion providers.

"We are simply following the direction of the General Assembly," said Gov. Mike DeWine — who has long opposed abortion and supports the controversial "heartbeat bill."

Iris Harvey, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, called the announcement “heartless.”

“Ohio continues to put politics over people, putting them at greater risk,” Harvey said. “This isn’t about politics, this is about lifesaving health care.”

Planned Parenthood asked the 6th Circuit to delay the law from going into effect while the organization prepares an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, in a court filing, new state Health Director Amy Acton said the request was a “very effective delay tactic,” noting that Planned Parenthood never said it was filing a petition with the Supreme Court in its original motion. Acton added that Planned Parenthood’s case is unlikely to prevail in front of the Supreme Court.

Acton said Planned Parenthood will not suffer financial harm from the termination of state money. The health department shows Planned Parenthood received nearly $596,000 in state funding in 2018.

“It will not be injured at all,” she said in the motion. "Planned Parenthood claims that it will have to cut programs if it loses state funding. That claim is dubious. … Ohio’s taxpayers should not be on the hook for additional payments — payments to which Planned Parenthood is not entitled, and that Ohio will be unable to reclaim — simply because Planned Parenthood failed to plan ahead.”

Planned Parenthood officials argue the state's action stunts funding for services that reduce infant mortality rates, prevent violence against women and provide cancer screenings, HIV tests and sex education.

The decision from the health department came just hours before a federal judge temporarily blocked a separate state law that bans dilation and evacuation abortions from taking affect.

“Because of this ruling, clinics will still be able to provide the same excellent level of care today that they did yesterday," NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jaime Miracle said. "We are appreciative of this temporary relief. We are hopeful as the case continues through the process and all the evidence can be presented, Ohio will follow the other states where courts have blocked similar bans."

The method is the most common used in second-trimester abortions. In a "D&E," a woman’s cervix is dilated and the fetus is removed using suction and surgical instruments. A law banning the method was signed by Kasich in late 2018. Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights supporters sued over the law in mid-February.

“As a society we cannot in good conscious allow a procedure that dismembers a living unborn baby to continue,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said. “We don't stand for that sort of treatment of any other living creature, and we won't stand for it when its being done to the most vulnerable among us.”

 

Maggie Prosser is a fellow with the E.W. Scripps Statehouse News Bureau. mprosser@dispatch.com @ProsserMaggie