By Emily Mills and Allie Johnson
Junior exercise science major Sam Anderson has been going to Planned Parenthood since she was 16 for birth control and other health services.
“It would be very costly (for me to go somewhere else,) and I’m a college student working three jobs,” she said. “Financially, for what I need, Planned Parenthood’s the best place for me to go.”
However, it could soon become difficult for Anderson to continue to get care.
Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of reproductive healthcare, could lose its government funding in Ohio after Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Liberty Township) introduced House Bill 294 at the end of July.
“As a (majority) caucus, we’ve been committed to protecting the unborn, and this bill just continues that commitment,” she said. “This bill is literally to improve women’s health and to help (improve) the infant mortality rate in the state of Ohio.”
The organization has also been making headlines in recent months after videos surfaced earlier this year that allegedly show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal body parts for research purposes.
While legal in some states, in Ohio it is illegal to experiment upon or sell aborted fetuses, which is categorized as abortion trafficking under Ohio Revised Code 2919.14.
The fetal tissue donation is done for scientific research, which is legal with consent from the mother. However, the issue is the possible sale of fetal body tissue, which is not legal in many states.
In Ohio, Planned Parenthood receives funding from government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through a competitive process with other local healthcare providers, said Diego Espino, vice president of community engagement for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.
The governmental organization sends out a request for proposals, or RFP, for all healthcare agencies in the area that would want to apply for the funding.
Each agency writes and submits a proposal stating why it should receive the funding and how it will be used. Once the governmental organization receives all of the applications, it awards the funding to the healthcare agency with the best proposal.
House Bill 294 calls for the Ohio Department of Health not to give grants to organizations that perform, promote or contract with an entity that performs or promotes elective abortions.
These grants include those related to the Violence Against Women Act for education and prevention of violence against women; the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act related to breast and cervical cancer screenings; the infertility prevention project; the minority HIV/AIDS initiative; and infant mortality reduction or infant vitality initiatives.
Espino said abortions are only two percent of the services the organization performs. It also provides several reproductive health services, including HIV/STD testing, vaccines, birth control, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and services, LGBT services and men’s and women’s healthcare.
“With the defunding efforts they’re trying to do, it is once again to take Planned Parenthood out of this competitive process,” Espino said. “It will basically just say Planned Parenthood is not allowed to compete and even if they have the best proposal, the one that makes most sense, the one that is more fiscally efficient, Planned Parenthood should not compete in these proposals and should not be awarded anything.”
Funding already in place would be taken away under the bill, Espino said.
“(They’re saying) ‘We will take it away from you because we don’t want you to be part of that network of healthcare providers just because you are Planned Parenthood, and one of the services that you provide is abortion care,’” he said.
Conditt said the bill is meant to ensure funding is used for the purposes for which it was created.
“If federal funds come into the Ohio Department of Health, and they are specified that this is to be used for HIV and AIDS prevention, that the money be used for HIV and AIDS prevention, and that’s it, and not be used for elective abortions or anything like that,” she said.
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said Planned Parenthood can continue to be funded privately. It should not however, receive government funding.
“My tax dollars should not be going to Planned Parenthood,” he said. “They should raise money on their own or go out of business.”
Espino said a poll of Ohio found many were opposed to any efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
“The reason why we are not going to be quiet about this is because it is taking. It is intended to take funding away from those populations that need it the most,” he said.
Currently, Medicaid reimburses Planned Parenthood for the services its clinics provide to patients who are enrolled in the program.
Espino said those who want Planned Parenthood to be defunded want Medicaid to cut ties with the organization and stop reimbursing the clinics.
“They’re trying to take us away from being a provider of choice,” he said.
If these options are approved by the legislature and governor, and Planned Parenthood stops receiving government funding, Espino said Planned Parenthood executives will have to look to see where cuts can be made.
He said the organization would try to find other sources of revenue, such as private donors.
“We will have to analyze the whole business model on how we could continue to provide services to our clients and how our clients will not be affected,” he said. “But again, this will be definitely impactful. What we will have to analyze is how much of an impact would it be…(We have to) look at what are our priorities in terms of the funding that is left.”
Because Ohio’s legislature is currently in recess until Sept. 30, the bill will not be heard until the first week of October.
It will go through three hearings in the house: sponsor testimony from Patmon and Conditt, proponent testimony and opponent testimony. It will go into committee, where it could either die or move to the House floor for a vote.
If the House approves the bill, it will move to the Senate for another round of hearings, committee discussion and a Senate vote. If it passes all of these stages, it will go to Gov. John Kasich’s desk, where he will either sign it into law or veto it.
“It’s a long process. This one won’t be quick,” Conditt said. “We want everybody to come and have their say.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood in July because of the videos.
“The videos describe conduct that if it occurred would violate Ohio law,” said Dan Tierney, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. “We were using our ability to investigate non-profit organizations to ensure that they comply with Ohio law, and that’s what’s occurring in this case.”
Planned Parenthood was required to turn over documents and financial records, which are being reviewed by the attorney general’s charitable law section. The investigating team includes an attorney, accountant and charitable investigator.
Tierney said there is not a projected completion date and would not comment as to whether any evidence of abortion trafficking had been found, but he said the investigation is active and ongoing.
He said if evidence of criminal activity is found, the charitable law section, which does not have original criminal jurisdiction, will work with the local county prosecutor in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
Gonidakis said Planned Parenthood should not receive government funding consisting of tax dollars from pro-life citizens.
“The series of videos that have come out over the past several months showing crystal-clear that they’re selling aborted baby body parts and other horrific matters for profit clearly demonstrates that my tax dollars and other pro-life tax dollars should not go to Planned Parenthood,” he said. “If Planned Parenthood wants to raise money through private donors on their own, that’s their prerogative. But why am I forced as a pro-life Ohioan to give my tax dollars to an organization that I vehemently oppose?”
Gonidakis said women will be able to receive healthcare from other locations should Planned Parenthood lose its government funding, such as community clinics and local health centers.
Espino said the videos were heavily edited and have been reviewed by three independent organizations, including video forensic analysts from the FBI.
“The heavily edited, discredited videos…tried to convey something that by no means was close to the truth,” he said.
On the national stage, hearings began earlier this month in the House of Representatives’ House Judiciary Committee to try to defund the organization.
In 2013-2014, the last years for which the data was available, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million in government funding, $305.3 million in nongovernment sources, $257.4 million in private donations and $54.7 million in service fees.
If Congress cannot reach an agreement by Sept. 30, when the fiscal year expires, the government could be forced to shut down.