Planned Parenthood Suffers a Blow in Ohio, Continues to Fight in Texas

The 2012 election may be over, but Planned Parenthood continues to fight for federal funding in several states across the country.

On Wednesday, the Health Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives voted to advance House Bill 298, which would strip $1.7 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood. In essence, the bill would place Planned Parenthood at the bottom of a priority list of family planning organizations receiving federal funds. Now that the committee has approved the bill (all 11 Republicans voted for it, all nine Democrats against it), it will advance to a full vote in Ohio’s House of Representatives. Should the bill go through, it will seriously impact the 100,000 Ohio men and women who utilize the organization’s services.

Meanwhile, the lengthy battle between Planned Parenthood and Texas continues. A November 8 hearing determined that the 49 Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas that do not provide abortions will continue to receive public funding and may remain a part of the Texas Women’s Health Program–for now. A state district judge granted Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction blocking the state of Texas from cutting federal funding to all its clinics because some of them provide abortions.

While good news, that Texas battle isn’t over. Lauren Bean, spokesperson for State Attorney General Greg Abbott, wrote in an email that Texas “will immediately appeal today’s decision, which incorrectly halts the implementation of state law.” Before the judge’s ruling was even issued, Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement which indicated that the lawsuit served only as an attempt to buy time for the organization. “We see their stalling tactic for what it is–yet another attempt to unashamedly defy the will of Texas voters and taxpayers,” he said.

On October 26, Planned Parenthood suffered a setback in its fight against Texas’s efforts to ban federal funding for the group when a federal appeals court rejected the organization’s appeal to stay in the Women’s Health Program (WHP). This decision had been in the making for months: In March, Gov. Perry implemented a rule that cut any affiliates of abortion providers from Medicaid funding. Then, in August, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that Texas could withhold funding for Planned Parenthood and any other organization providing abortions in Texas.

Currently a main provider in the Texas WHP, Planned Parenthood provides contraceptives and health screenings to more than 100,000 women. The state ban would cost the organization an estimated $13 million each year in government funds. Obviously this would result in consequences for women who rely on Planned Parenthood for reproductive health services, especially as many clinics would have to close.

Texas already fares poorly, statistically, in reproductive health: Liberation notes that it faces some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S., and high percentages of pregnant women (34 percent statewide and 66 percent in rural areas) are uninsured. Should the state be allowed to defund Planned Parenthood, the outlook is even bleaker:

In reality, the new WHP means women in Texas will have to jump through even more hoops to access care, and in many rural areas they will have no access due to lack of providers. A George Washington University study shows the lack of access to care under the new plan will result in more unwanted births and more taxpayer-funded Medicaid births, which translates into declining health and increased hardship for women and children.

Ohio and Texas are just two examples of the many states vowing to take away women’s reproductive rights. Over the past two years, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have taken steps to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. As was the case in Indiana and Arizona last month, we hope to see Planned Parenthood prevail; no woman’s healthcare should be at the mercy of a state leader’s punitive political agenda.

Photo via Flickr user Fibonacci Blue licensed under Creative Commons 2.0


Rachel Kassenbrock is a writer who works at the Feminist Majority Foundation and blogs for Ms. Follow her on Twitter at @rkassenbrock.