Armed With Right-Wing Media's Misinformation About Planned Parenthood, Ohio Legislature Passes Defunding Bill

Following a second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is poised to sign a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. The bill not only strips Planned Parenthood of state funding, but it would additionally threaten funding for any group contracting with or referring patients to an abortion provider. While the bill does not affect Medicaid reimbursements, it could impact funding for other state health care programs that are currently served by Planned Parenthood affiliates.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio issued a statement as the bill was debated by the state senate saying its passage could stop city and county health departments that have contracts with Planned Parenthood -- or an independent abortion provider -- from receiving state funding for breast and cervical cancer prevention, infertility, infant mortality, and HIV/AIDS programs, as well as sex education and other initiatives.

Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) -- Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year -- anti-choice legislators have repeated right-wing media misinformation about Planned Parenthood in an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. They have simultaneously claimed that community health clinics can effectively fill in the gap left by barring Planned Parenthood from state health care programs, a claim echoed in Ohio by the bill's supporters.

Despite claims made by right-wing media that community clinics can completely fulfill the needs served by state health care programs, there is evidence that removing Planned Parenthood from such programs has a detrimental impact. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for women seeking contraceptive services. They noted that Planned Parenthood is the only provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than “other types of safety-net providers.”

A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine that examined the impact in Texas of removing Planned Parenthood from state-funded programs found a decrease in the use of long-acting contraceptives that corresponded with an increase in child births by Medicaid-funded patients.

Research from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has shown that defunding Planned Parenthood would lead to a net increase in government spending of $130 million over a 10-year period. Beyond the fiscal impact, research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP)  on the impact of Planned Parenthood cuts in Texas suggests that loss of access to such clinics poses dire health risks as well.

Community health clinics are also ill-positioned to meet many Americans' health care needs, particularly when Planned Parenthood is taken out of the equation. Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote in an article for the Health Affairs Blog that the “claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do.”

And contraception is not patients' only loss; removing Planned Parenthood from state health care programs can have other harmful consequences. For example, in 2011 Indiana cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which left one rural county without an HIV testing center as it experienced a growth in HIV infections.  

The editorial boards of the Akron Beacon Journal and the Toledo Blade have both warned of similar threats to Ohio women's health if Gov. Kasich fails to veto the bill. According to the Akron Beacon Journal's editorial board, the health impact of Ohio's bill would be widespread as the “loose language in the bill may lead to funding complications for local hospitals and public health departments.” In response to claims that other clinics can fill in for Planned Parenthood, the Toledo Blade's editorial board noted that community clinics in Ohio “do not serve poor and minority women nearly to the extent that Planned parenthood does.”