Another restrictive, grossly anti-choice measure has passed in Ohio, one that further limits women’s access to healthcare–and again, the law passed at the hands of Governor John Kasich. Behind closed doors on Sunday, Kasich signed one of the United States’ most restrictive anti-choice bills, stripping $1.3 million in state funding from any entity that “performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions,” or those who contract with entities that do – including entire cities, counties, and universities. The use of government funds for abortions has been outlawed since the 1970s, so women’s healthcare services in Ohio will now lose money that was to be used to provide preventative care and sex education, including HIV tests and other testing for sexually transmitted disease, as well as outreach programs and services to prevent domestic violence and infant mortality.
Though Planned Parenthood is not named directly in the bill, at a rally on Monday Kasich made clear that the effort was aimed to derail the health service provider, telling a woman in the crowd, “You don’t have to be captive of delivery through an organization that has largely discredited itself, okay?” (At the same event in Virginia, he praised the “women who left the kitchen to go door to door” during his first campaign for state Senate in the late 1970s.)
In the ongoing presidential race, Governor Kasich has been hailed as a charming moderate in comparison to his peers who also hope to become the Republican candidate on the grounds that he’s not as openly racist as Donald Trump, supports a path to citizenship for immigrants, and has been to a gay wedding. But the policies of the second-term governor of Ohio have long effected the women of his state—especially poor women of color—and his presidency would translate to “a complete and utter disaster” for America’s women, said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards at a Women in the World Salon in Los Angeles last month. After it became clear that the bill’s signing was likely strategically planned around Kasich’s presidential campaign, NARAL executive director Kellie Copeland agreed, calling Kasich “unfit to be president” on the grounds that “he is hurting women and families for his own political gain.”
In 1978, Kasich became the youngest person ever elected to the Ohio Senate at age 26, after which he served nine terms as a congressman representing Ohio’s 12th Congressional District before being elected governor in 2010. Since then, Kasich has signed every single piece of anti-abortion and women’s reproductive health provision that has crossed his desk (17 in total), starting with a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and a round of budget cuts in 2013 that stripped Planned Parenthood of $1.4 million, requiring abortion providers to perform ultrasounds and allowing rape crisis centers to be stripped of their public funds if they referred victims to abortion providers, the Huffington Post reported. Under Governor Kasich’s rule in Ohio, where single moms are the largest demographic living in poverty and 65 percent of citizens opposed the most recent defunding, more than half of the providers of safe and legal abortion have shut their doors. There are nearly 2.5 million women of reproductive age in the state.
Because of Kasich’s policies—backed by 65 anti-abortion members of the House and 23 anti-abortion members of the Senate—obtaining access to women’s healthcare and family planning was already hard, but just became more complex. Though the funds will be redirected to other health care facilities throughout the state, the loose definition of “promotes” used in House Bill 294 suggests that if any county contracts with a health care facility, hospital, or insurance provider that offers at least some plans that cover abortion care, the county will lose access to government-dispersed funds entirely. Community leaders like Kelli Arthur Hykes, Director of Public Health Policy for Columbus, testified against HB 294 on behalf of the 850,000 residents in the state’s capital, arguing that the city of Columbus would be unable to operate with any hospital in its jurisdiction and through billing insurance—a necessary process—all funding for the Ohio Department of Health would be at risk. Moreso, “none of that money could be used to support any work with hospitals, even the production of birth and death certificates…would require Columbus Public Health to produce an estimated 6,000 additional fetal death certificates annually, from which the information would come from abortion clinics and hospitals,” she said.
Ohio native Taylr Nicole Ucker, who serves as an instructor of women, gender and sexuality studies at Wright State University, told Women in the World that simply living as a woman under Governor Kasich makes her feel “under attack.” “By signing the bill to defund Planned Parenthood, he showed Ohio women that not only does he not care about us, but that he hates us,” she said. “He wants to control my body and my life.”
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