The Republican-led Ohio Legislature’s decision to pull all funding from Planned Parenthood could lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies and abortions as it becomes more difficult for women to get contraception and other women’s health services, said Ohio House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton.
“I think the notion that those services are going to be provided by other entities is an unknown,” said Strahorn who spoke on Friday during taping of WHIO Reports.
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The legislature approved and Gov. John Kasich on Sunday signed a bill that pulls about $1.3 million in mostly federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood and pays for contraceptives, breast and cervical cancer screening, HIV and other sexually transmitted disease testing, and prevention of violence against women.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, defended the bill and said it has long been a goal of Ohio Right to Life and others to pull funding for Planned Parenthood because some of its offices do abortions.
Federal law already prohibits using taxpayer money for abortions and Planned Parenthood says it uses private funds for those services.
Antani, also speaking during a taping of WHIO Reports, said there are more than 200 federally-qualified health centers in the state where that money could go. He said diverting funding from the 28 Planned Parenthood centers will give women more access to health services rather than less.
Strahorn said in some areas Planned Parenthood is the sole available provider of women’s health services to under-served communities.
Antani and Strahorn also discussed the need to make college more affordable and to improve workforce development. Antani’s focus was on making colleges operate more efficiently, while Strahorn said a big part of the problem is that the state has shifted the largest burden of the cost to families and cut the college tuition tax credit.
Strahorn said his priorities over the next year are passing a package of economic policies that include increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and mandatory paid sick and parental leave; restoring the state’s renewable energy mandates; and developing an education policy that includes funding education at a level that ensures a quality education.
Strahorn said it would be better for the economy if the legislature was less “skewed” toward businesses and more toward the middle class, where wages are stagnating even as corporate profits climb.
“You cannot have a healthy economy by continuing to shift the responsibility for paying for infrastructure on to the middle class,” said Strahorn. “At some point they’re going to give out.”
Antani said his priorities include workforce development, including more training for automotive technicians, making sure that expungement of criminal records shows up in background checks, and passing bills such as a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Both agreed that the state legislature is more effective at getting things done than Congress but that legislators remain seriously divided on some controversial partisan issues. Currently Republicans control the House 65-34 and the Senate 23-10.
“The majority of bills in the House last year had bipartisan support,” said Antani. “I think that both parties share the goals of a strong economy and a strong middle class, helping folks achieve their American dream. But I think that we have different solutions on how to get there.”