With Republican support and Democratic opposition, the Ohio House Finance Committee on April 16 approved a budget bill that would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups call “anti-choice.”
The bill would make it so teachers can be sued for up to $5,000 if they explain birth control to high school students.
It would also redirect federal funding for family planning services in a way that would strip funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers.
During April 12 hearings for the bill, multiple women’s health advocates, ranging from health experts to members of Planned Parenthood, said these services mostly benefit low-income women, particularly in rural areas.
Representatives from anti-abortion groups spoke in support of the measures, citing health care options, family values and abstinence.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says the defunding measure has become a recurring trend for Ohio Republicans, who have taken up the Planned Parenthood measure multiple times in the past couple years. But she says the threat could have more weight this time around.
“This feels different,” Copeland says. “They’ve always kind of tried to hide it before. This time they were a lot more upfront about it. It seems like they may be willing to put political capital into this fight this time.”
During testimony, Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, asked state legislators to support the organization’s numerous medical services, including women’s health, family planning and sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment.
She said public funds don’t go to abortions, which are instead funded by private donations.
The bill would also shift federal funding to a program that would fund crisis pregnancy centers, which provide abstinence-only family planning services.