COLUMBUS, Ohio – Anti-abortion groups in Ohio have called on Gov. John Kasich to block Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood, though federal health officials have warned other states that such a move could violate the law.
Ohio Right to Life and a coalition of other anti-abortion groups want Kasich, a Republican presidential contender, to stop taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood.
The groups cite the release of secretly recorded videos by anti-abortion activists showing Planned Parenthood employees describing how they provide fetal tissue from abortions for medical research. Planned Parenthood has said the videos are heavily edited and misleading.
Such tissue donations are illegal in Ohio, and a Planned Parenthood state leader says no donation program exists here.
Still, the state’s attorney general is investigating the organization to see whether it may have violated its nonprofit status and made money from the sale of organs from aborted fetuses.
The coalition of anti-abortion groups wants Kasich to direct state agencies to eliminate all allocations of government money, including any Medicaid dollars, to the organization.
“We believe that in order to ensure that Ohio leads the nation in both protecting human lives and taxpayer dollars, your action to stop the distribution of these funds is needed now,” the coalition, which includes Ohio ProLife Action and Citizens for Community Values Action, wrote in an Aug. 24 letter.
Ohio Right to Life’s president, Mike Gonidakis, has asked Kasich to terminate Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider agreements with the state. He said in a letter dated Aug. 7 that the organization “must be held accountable.”
Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews said the administration was reviewing its options. He declined to comment further.
Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana officials have said they would end Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood, prompting a warning from federal health officials who cited laws requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to get covered services from any qualified provider.
Planned Parenthood is among the more than 80,000 Medicaid providers across Ohio. It has 27 affiliated health centers, offering cancer screenings, preventative care, sexually transmitted disease treatment and other services. Three locations provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio were paid about $5.8 million for providing health services to Medicaid patients in the budget year that ended June 30, according to Stephanie Kight, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and head of its advocacy arm.
That combination of state and federal dollars can help pay for a variety of health services, including abortions in limited circumstances of rape, incest or when the life of the woman would be in danger.
Few such abortions were covered by Medicaid in the last budget year, Kight said.
Some Ohio lawmakers also are targeting the money Planned Parenthood receives through federal grants administered by the Ohio Department of Health.
The organization got more than $1 million in such grants last budget year, according to the state’s health department. The money supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, along with diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. An Ohio bill introduced this summer seeks to block state health officials from distributing that grant money to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates.
Kight defends Planned Parenthood clinics, saying they provide a critical safety net of services for women and their families.
“These constant threats and constant attacks are bad for women’s health care,” Kight said in an interview. “It’s clear to us that this is just political theater and over dramatizing on the part of these anti-women’s health people in the state of Ohio.”
Kight said Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office does annual inspections of the organization’s contracts and knows there is no fetal tissue donation program.
“He launched this investigation for a program that doesn’t exist,” she said.