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State considers fate of Planned Parenthood, students speak out

By Tess Sohngen, For The Miami Student

The recent Ohio Senate decision to defund Planned Parenthood will reduce access to comprehensive sexuality education and affordable testing services, the organization's advocates say.

The decision followed a similar vote in Texas to defund the non-profit earlier this month.

The push toward legislative action against Planned Parenthood resulted from the controversial and widely disputed videos alleging Planned Parenthood profiting from aborted fetal tissue.

While Planned Parenthood does provide abortions, most of its services focus on other community health care, like cancer screening, STD testing and treatments and sexual health and reproductive education.

Ohio Senate Bill 214, which the Ohio Senate passed Wednesday, Oct. 21, would do more than strip Planned Parenthood of its estimated $1.3 million from the state.

The bill, if passed by the Ohio House of Representatives, will prohibit state or federal funding to any organization that provides abortion procedures, as well as other organizations that partner with abortion providers.

StemExpress has already severed its ties to the organization in the wake of the video controversy. The small Californian company used to collaborate with Planned Parenthood to distribute fetal tissue and cells.

Jacqueline Daugherty is a certified sexuality educator and researcher at Miami University. Daugherty testified at the hearing in Columbus for the Ohio SB 214.

"It won't just impact the funding that Planned Parenthood gets, but it will also impact Planned Parenthood's ability to … partner with all manners of community partners because now their own pots of state funding will be at risk," said Daugherty.

Daugherty has worked at Planned Parenthood, but was also a patient there during college, at the University of Cincinnati.

"That was the only place I could go to get services without my parents being billed on their insurance… and it was a nice place to go, too," said Daugherty.

The Senate passing Bill 214 came with significant political controversy. The 23-10 vote cut straight down party lines and was pushed through quickly. The committee hearing the bill enforced a 90-second to two-minute limit to testimonies of opponents of the bill, but listened to four-and-a-half hours of testimonies for proponents of the bill, Daugherty said.

Ohio Senator Bill Coley (R) of District 4 - Butler County's state senator - attributes the appropriation of testimony time to the unequal number of witnesses for proponents and opponents of the bill. Proponents only sent three witnesses, compared to the opponents' 55 witnesses, thus were allowed more time to speak, according to what he said in the live streaming of the bill's hearing last Wednesday.

Daugherty believes that the sexuality education will be most impacted from this bill. She said that most funding stripped from Planned Parenthood will go to agencies that have pro-life and abstinence-only policies as their mission.

"It's not going to be comprehensive," said Daugherty.

She argues that not only do these agencies not have the capacity to provide for the number of people that Planned Parenthood does, but they also do not have the research-backed evidence that Planned Parenthood has.

However, Coley argues that the move to defund abortion-providing organizations will not take away from sexuality education and testing.

"We're moving that money to organizations that are life-affirming organizations," said Coley. "Not one less dollar is going to be spent in those programs."

Last year, 56,939 patients visited Planned Parenthood, 70 percent of which were between 18 and 35 years old, according to Planned Parenthood's 2014 annual report for Greater Ohio. Of the 95,568 visits (meaning some patients came for multiple visits) to the organization in 2014, only 2 percent were abortion services.

Daughtery said she is worried and sees this bill as part of a longer, larger pattern.

"When we're making public health policy, it is, in my opinion, an ethical obligation to the public, and a fiscal obligation … to ensure that our policy is supported by the best research that we have access to, and I feel that is really where the Senate Bill 214 falls short," said Daugherty.

Some Miami students have expressed anxiety with Senate Bill 214, including Lana Pochiro, a junior and patient of Planned Parenthood.

"It scares me, on a personal level, that our elected officials are doing this," said Pochiro. "If it's defunded, then where do I go?"

Although the bill targets abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, the bill does not affect women's access to abortions.

"[Senate Bill 214] is not affecting … abortion funding," said Daugherty. "The state of Ohio and the federal government both have statutes that say you can't use federal or state money to provide abortions, except in the case where there is rape that involves a police report, or when there's a threat to the woman's health."

Although the bill changes nothing in regard to funding abortions, Coley stressed his wishes that the bill would prevent abortions in Ohio.

"I hope that maybe … some of the abortions that get prevented and maybe some of that will result in more women sitting in this chamber who would otherwise not be here today," said Coley.

Rebecca Clark, co-president of Miami University's feminist organization called F-WORD, argues the bill was passed over the abortion controversy and without consideration of other reproductive health care that makes up the majority of Planned Parenthood's services.

Pochiro, Clark and other members of F-WORD expressed not only their frustration with SB 214, but also fear the message it sends to women of Ohio - especially college women.

"It definitely sends a message that our government doesn't care about women, doesn't care about women's health, doesn't care about women having control of their own bodies the way men are given control," said Clark.