Measures signed June 30 by Gov. John Kasich as part of the budget place Planned Parenthood and unaffiliated family planning clinics at the back of the line behind local health departments and community centers for receiving federal money allocated by the Ohio Department of Health. However, federal money to Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s Lorain clinic had already been cut, according to Celeste Ribbins, a spokeswoman for the group which includes 20 clinics in 68 counties in all areas of Ohio except southwest Ohio.
Planned Parenthood money had been allocated by the nonprofit Center for Community Solutions, which Ribbins said stopped applying for federal money late last year or early this year. Ribbins said the federal Department of Health and Human Services chose the Ohio Department of Health over Planned Parenthood to distribute the money. The Ohio department in May chose to fund Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Cleveland but not the one at 200 W. Ninth St., Lorain.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, called Planned Parenthood a “special interest group.” He said about 500,000 poor women use Ohio community health centers annually compared to about 100,000 who use Planned Parenthood. “It’s imperative that we make sure that poor women have access to these funds and where they’re going to get their family planning care (is) community health centers,” he said.
Ribbins said the decision means poor women will no longer be able to get free care at the Lorain clinic, which includes screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The clinic served 775 women in the last fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30.
Ribbins said poor women in Lorain County have limited options for reproductive care, and the new law inserts an “artificial pyramid” of providers. She questioned whether the community centers and health departments have the capacity and experience to best serve women, particularly poor women.
“They’re not really prioritizing the funding, they’re prioritizing which women deserve the care and which women don’t,” Ribbins said. “It’s dangerous to play politics with women’s health.”
Ribbins said women who use Planned Parenthood are being punished by the Republican-led Legislature because Planned Parenthood performs abortions. However, Ribbins said only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s budget is for abortions.
The Lorain clinic doesn’t do abortions — Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics are in Bedford Heights and Columbus — but it does arrange them. However, Ribbins said women aren’t coerced into having them.
“We answer women’s questions openly and honestly without judgment,” she said. “We firmly believe that the decision to choose adoption, terminate a pregnancy or raise a child belongs to the woman, her family, her faith and her physician.”