Planned Parenthood Funding Reinstated in Ohio

by | May 24, 2016

By Randy Ludlow

At first blush, a federal judge believes Gov. John Kasich and Republican lawmakers who support abortion restrictions acted unconstitutionally to end state funding for Planned Parenthood.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett of Cincinnati on Monday barred Ohio Department of Health Director Richard Hodges from enforcing a law to strip $1.5 million from the organization. The law was to have taken effect on Monday.

Ruling that Planned Parenthood had demonstrated a "likelihood of success" in the courts, Barrett granted a temporary restraining order through June 6 in ordering the state to reinstate its terminated contracts with the group.

For more than 20 years, Planned Parenthood -- which offers abortions at three of its 28 Ohio clinics -- received federal grants and state money to offer non-abortion programs such as breast and cervical cancer screening, sexually-transmitted-disease testing, a Healthy Moms-Healthy Babies program and other services. But lawmakers voted early this year to terminate funding, for any purpose, to any abortion provider.

Barrett wrote in his order that the law would be "depriving thousands of Ohioans of high-quality, affordable health-care services and education programs." The law "bears no rational relationship to Ohio's stated interest of favoring childbirth."

He added, "There is also no doubt that the Ohio legislature enacted (the law) for the purpose of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking to obtain an abortion."

Money taken from Planned Parenthood was to be redirected to other health clinics in Ohio. Supporters said it would help provide broader health-care coverage across the state, but opponents argued that many of those clinics do not offer the care for low-income women offered by Planned Parenthood.

In alleging constitutional violations in its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood said the law would illegally compromise a woman's right to a legal abortion because the loss in funding for other programs could imperil the financial health of its three abortion clinics, particularly in Cincinnati. The three Planned Parenthood clinics performed about 30 percent (6,237) of the 21,186 abortions performed in Ohio in 2014 -- and 36 percent of those in Franklin County.

Iris E. Harvey, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said in a statement, "The courts rejected Gov. Kasich and Ohio legislators' attack on people who already have the least access to care. They attempted to block Planned Parenthood patients from care, all in the name of politics. Politicians had gone as far as to claim women can get cancer screenings at food banks. The court just called their bluff."

A spokeswoman for the state Health Department declined to comment on the ruling by Barrett, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Ohio Right to Life officials had the bill at the top of their legislative agenda for years, and they had praised lawmakers for ensuring taxpayer dollars are "shielded from the abortion industry."

But Monday, Michael Gonidakis, president of the group, said in a statement: "Yet again, an activist judge jumps to Planned Parenthood's rescue, showcasing the special privilege Planned Parenthood has, even in a state of pro-life voters. Despite the will of the people, Planned Parenthood will continue to feed at the trough of taxpayer dollars for another two weeks. Today, Planned Parenthood's greed and power are on full display in Ohio."

(c)2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)