Right to Life is best-known for opposing legal abortion, but the group also wants Ohio legislators to cut off funding for efforts to prevent pregnancy in the first place.
Ohio Right to Life wants the state to stop giving tax dollars designated for family planning to Planned Parenthood, a group that claims in 1999 it offered health care to 77,000 women who are poor, uninsured, underinsured and have no other source of health care.
"We object to Planned Parenthood because they are the nation's largest abortion provider," says Mark Lally, legislative counsel for Ohio Right to Life. "There's nothing even remotely comparable to Planned Parenthood in the total number of abortion clinics that they operate."
Ohio has offered state funding for family planning since 1984, and the money goes to a variety of places besides Planned Parenthood. None of the state funds can be used for abortions or abortion referrals.
"Our primary service is family planning, not abortion," says Susan Momeyer, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
The tax dollars Ohio Right to Life wants to take away are used for women's health and family planning -- "which they seem to be afraid to admit that they are against," Momeyer says.
Lally says taxpayers who do not agree with the practices of Planned Parenthood are being forced to fund the agency while "we're cutting public funding for many good programs."
But by eliminating tax dollars to Planned Parenthood for family planning, Right to Life could end up causing more of the abortions it so strongly objects to, according to Momeyer.
"Funding family planning services reduces the need for abortion," she says. "That's what contraception is all about. Reducing family planning could very well lead to an increase in abortions."
Planned Parenthood provides women's health services on a sliding-fee scale, offering diabetes screening, pap smears, contraceptives, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
"It is a basic liberty to determine when and whether to have children," Momeyer says. "It is a basic building block of our society."
Lally says Ohio Right to Life does not take a position on preconception family planning, and only deals with issues beginning at conception. Lally says Ohio is already under a tight budget and Planned Parenthood should not be part of it.
"It makes no sense to be funding a controversial private organization like Planned Parenthood when you're cutting public organizations' money, and they can't go out and get private money," Lally says.
Lally acknowledges state funding for Planned Parenthood is not allowed to be used directly for abortions, but he says Planned Parenthood receives money from private sources to help support abortion services. In other words, tax dollars given to the agency free up private money to be used for abortions, according to Lally.
Momeyer says a few donors designate funds for abortion services, but the majority of abortions performed are paid for by patients or health insurance.
Planned Parenthood says it is the only organization offering subsidized family planning services in Butler and Clermont counties. But Ohio Right to Life would rather see local health departments offer the health services, eliminating the stigma they say is attached to Planned Parenthood.
"They try to create the image that 'If we aren't the ones doing this, these women wouldn't get this' -- and that's nonsense," Lally says. "They don't need to force taxpayers to support them, but they do it anyway."
Planned Parenthood says state funds pay for 30 percent of its services; the rest comes from patient fees and donations.
According to Lally, some low-income women are not getting health care because of Planned Parenthood's practices.
"There are some women who wouldn't be caught dead walking into a Planned Parenthood center, because they object to their abortion (position)," he says. "They hate Planned Parenthood, because they are the embodiment of abortion-providing in this country."
But without Planned Parenthood's ability to offer family planning and women's health screenings, Momeyer says, there would be a "huge gaping hole in the health care system."
BURNING QUESTIONS is our weekly attempt to afflict the comfortable.
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