Ohio lawmakers' battle to defund Planned Parenthood in the Buckeye State is closer to reality after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2016 law that halted state taxpayer money from funding abortion facilities.
The Ohio Department of Health notified recipients and contractors this month that their grants and contracts with the state would be terminated after a federal appeals court upheld the 2016 law.
Funding will end by mid-April unless there are additional court delays. The law prevents state and federal funds from being "used to perform or promote nontherapeutic abortions."
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio President Iris Harvey told The Columbus Dispatch the court’s decision was "heartless."
In February 2016, former governor John Kasich signed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and prevent the state from engaging in contracts with any abortion-providing organization. The bill redirected approximately $1.3 million to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), health departments, and other non-abortion health providers. It also earmarked $250,000 in Medicaid funds exclusively for community health centers. There are 10 community health centers in the state for every Planned Parenthood clinic.
The $1.3 million in taxpayer money accounted for about five percent of Planned Parenthood’s state budget.
Ohio was the tenth state to pass a law eliminating taxpayer funding of abortion in 2016. Shortly after Ohio, Wisconsin also enacted two measures to halt state funds from being used for abortions.
In 2016, Texas also enacted a law defunding Planned Parenthood and barring state Medicaid dollars from being used for abortion. The law was challenged, as it was in Ohio, and also upheld.
CMP said after the ruling, "The Court ruled that Texas may strip Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer subsidies, finding that Planned Parenthood uses criminal partial-birth abortions to sell baby parts."
In 2016, Planned Parenthood sued the state of Ohio, receiving an injunction to block the law from U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett. Barrett ruled that removing taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood’s budget would cause "irreparable injury."
Attorneys for the state maintained that Planned Parenthood has no legal standing to mandate how state governments spend taxpayer money. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
While there is a constitutional right to receive an abortion, no constitutional right exists for Planned Parenthood or any other entity to perform an abortion paid for with taxpayer funding, the court ruled.
"Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities," Judge Jeffrey Sutton said.
"The state also may choose not to subsidize constitutionally protected activities," Sutton added. "Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech, say a Speaker’s Corner in downtown Columbus, it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion. Case after case establishes that a government may refuse to subsidize abortion services."
Casey Mattox, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, said of the ruling that redirecting the $1.3 million can only help more women and families in the state.
"Taxpayer dollars should not go to organizations with a long track record of abusive and potentially fraudulent billing practices, that have been caught in authenticated undercover videos negotiating prices for [selling] baby body parts, and that have repeatedly failed to report the sexual abuse of girls," Mattox said. "Ohio has the right to end its relationship with organizations undeserving of taxpayer money and unworthy of the taxpayers’ trust."
In 2017, President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing states to defund abortion providers. His administration also recently implemented a rule change to Title X, which prevents federal taxpayer money from being used for abortion. The rule requires that any health provider applying for Title X funding must evidence a "clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning."