On Feb. 21st, 2016, then-Republican Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 294. The bill’s intent is to prevent the use of public funds for elective (a.k.a. “nontherapeutic”) abortions. Before the law, roughly $1 million a year in state health funding went, primarily, to organizations like Planned Parenthood. This law denied that funding.
Three months later, Judge Michael R. Barrett of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued a restriction, preventing the law from being implemented in Ohio. He argued that if the law went into effect, it could cause “irreparable harm” to citizens who rely on non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. Later, he outright declared the law unconstitutional, setting off a series of appeals.
The latest of these appeals decided on Tuesday, affirmed that Ohio has a constitutional right to cut funding for Abortions. The majority opinion, written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, noted that a state:
…may choose not to fund a private organization’s health and education initiatives. Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities. The State also may choose not to subsidize constitutionally protected activities. Just as it has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech, say a Speaker’s Corner in downtown Columbus, it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion. Case after case establishes that a government may refuse to subsidize abortion services.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown blasted the decision in a statement:
Today’s ruling rewards a political stunt by state lawmakers that has real consequences for Ohio women and families, … By blocking funding for women to access potentially lifesaving healthcare – including breast and cervical cancer screenings and infant mortality prevention programs – Ohio lawmakers are putting politics over the health and safety of their constituents.”
Planned Parenthood maintains 26 facilities in the state of Ohio, three of which practice abortion, yet many have the ability to refer women to clinics for abortions. The organization has not stated whether or not they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Should the do so, considering President Donald Trump’s recent Supreme Court appointments, a Planned Parenthood victory is uncertain.
The decision comes as the Ohio legislature considers House Bill 68 (HB 68) which would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Former Governor Kasich twice vetoed the bill, however, Governor DeWine has pledged to sign the bill, should it land on his desk.
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