Kasich signs bill to divert funding

Published 11:15 am Monday, February 22, 2016

Community health programs cut

COLUMBUS (AP) — Gov. John Kasich signed legislation Sunday to strip government money from Planned Parenthood in Ohio, an expected move that came one day after the Republican presidential contender’s weak performance in his party’s South Carolina primary.

The action came despite calls for a veto by some legislative Democrats and several newspaper editorials.

The governor did not sign the bill in public. His office made the announcement in a statement. Kasich had made it clear before the weekend primary he would sign the bill into law.

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The legislation targets the roughly $1.3 million in funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. The money, which is mostly federal, supports HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prevention of violence against women.

The legislation prohibits such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions, their affiliates and those that contract with an entity that performs abortions.

The House gave its final approval earlier this month on a mostly party-line vote, with the bill’s Democratic co-sponsor voting in favor and two Republicans voting against it.

The bill doesn’t name Planned Parenthood, but backers of the legislation have acknowledged the organization will be the most affected. They want the money to go to health centers and other providers that do not perform abortions.

Opponents say the measure puts politics ahead of people’s health care.

State and federal laws already prohibit taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

A Planned Parenthood leader in Ohio has emphasized the organization’s doors would remain open, but its community health programs would be cut. The group says programs targeted in the bill helped Planned Parenthood in the last year to provide more than 47,000 STD tests and 3,600 HIV tests to Ohioans, serve nearly 2,800 new or expectant mothers, and inform young people and women about healthy relationships.

Kasich’s actions betray thousands of Ohioans who rely on the agency’s work, said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Amelia Hayes.

“Gov. Kasich should be ashamed for claiming he is invested in the fight against infant mortality while simultaneously defunding one of the best programs in the state for young mothers and their children,” she said.

Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper said Kasich has aligned himself with Tea Party conservatives over the wishes of most state residents. Joe Schiavoni, the state Senate’s top-ranking Democrat, said the cuts will devastate Ohio’s ability to help some of its most underserved residents.

Lawmakers approved the legislation Feb. 10, but Kasich’s office did not receive it until Thursday.

The measure follows an outcry among abortion opponents around the country after the release of secretly recorded videos by activists alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law.

Planned Parenthood has called the videos misleading and denied any wrongdoing, saying a handful of its clinics provided fetal tissue for research while receiving only permissible reimbursement for costs.

Three of Planned Parenthood’s 28 locations in Ohio provide abortions. The organization has said it has no fetal tissue donation program in Ohio, where such donations are illegal.