WASHINGTON-- The GOP may insist that there is no war on women, but the campaign against Planned Parenthood, which provides health care to one in five American women each year, is gaining ground in the Midwest.
Republican state representatives in Ohio slipped an amendment into the state's substitute budget bill on Tuesday that puts family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood at the bottom of funding priorities and blocks them from receiving funding for cancer screenings and HIV and domestic violence services.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced on Friday that it has stopped providing nonsurgical abortions, which make up about 25 percent of all abortions performed at its clinics, due to a new state law that criminalizes physicians who perform them.
Defunding Planned Parenthood through Ohio's budget bill is a way for GOP lawmakers to pass the measure without having to vote on a separate bill, which would likely cause controversy. The Planned Parenthood amendment, introduced by Republicans in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, puts family planning clinics that provide abortions in the bottom tier of priority for Title X funds, making it more likely that the state will run out of money before it can provide any funding to Planned Parenthood.
The amendment further prohibits federal funds from the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Violence Against Women Act, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act and the Infertility Prevention Project from going to Planned Parenthood or any other family planning clinic that provides abortions.
The GOP-controlled House is expected to vote on the budget bill next week and pass it, with the amendment attached.
"This House seems to stop at nothing to attack women and their reproductive rights, and in this case, their access to basic health care and cancer screenings," State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), a member of the House Finance Committee, told HuffPost. "It's just a very tough legislature to be a part of."
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio said that of its 37 health centers, only three perform abortions, and none of the $1.7 million it receives in federal funding annually is used to pay for abortions. Opponents of the amendment are concerned that many of the rural and low-income women in Ohio who rely on Planned Parenthood clinics for basic health and family planning services will not have any nearby alternative if Planned Parenthood is stripped of funding.
Republicans on the Finance Committee, however, "seem to be burying their head in the sand on that issue," Clyde said. "We've heard some pretty clear testimony that the services are not available -- there's already wait times, not enough doctors out there offering these services -- but the Republicans seem to think that other types of health centers can pick up all of the extra demand and absorb all of these patients. I think that is completely false."
House Finance Chairman Rep. Ron Amstut (R-Wooster) and state Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), who are pushing the amendment, did not respond to calls for comment.
Mike Gonidakis, President of Ohio Right to Life, lauded the amendment in a statement. "Ohio's abortion industry will no longer feed at the taxpayer trough. Instead, these dedicated health care funds will be offered to those entities where a vast majority of low-income women and their children seek responsible and life-saving services," he said.
On Wednesday the Ohio Democratic Party circulated a petition to stop the House from defunding Planned Parenthood, which 12,000 women have signed as of this writing.
In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood announced that, due to a new law that Gov. Scott Walker (R) put into effect Friday, it would no longer be able to provide medication abortions, which are a safe, nonsurgical alternative for women who are less than nine weeks into their pregnancies. The so-called Coercive and Webcam Abortion Prevention Act requires the physician to determine whether a woman is being coerced into having an abortion and prohibits abortion counseling via webcam in Wisconsin, which is not common practice in the state. Planned Parenthood called the law "ambiguous and difficult to interpret" and said it would require three separate doctor's visits to get medication abortions and would impose criminal penalties for doctors who provided such abortions.
"The decision to end a pregnancy is a complex one, specific to each woman and her individual circumstances," said Teri Hyuck, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, in a statement Friday. "Decisions about childbearing should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and doctor -- not by politicians. Planned Parenthood will continue to be there to provide women with quality, safe and legal health care services without judgment."
Proponents of the law say it is intended to protect the health of women and the lives of their fetuses.
"Because chemical abortions comprise 26 percent of Wisconsin abortions," Wisconsin Right to Life said in a statement on Friday, "their suspension will result in another decline in Wisconsin abortions which is great news for mothers and babies."
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