Throughout much of his presidential campaign, Ohio Governor John Kasich has been labeled a moderate alternative to both hardline conservatives Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and to the chaotic, hatemongering Donald Trump. Following a dismal fifth place finish in the South Carolina primary, this moderate image dramatically shifted on Sunday when Kasich signed Ohio House Bill 294 into law.
The bill prevents the state from contracting with any organization that performs or promotes abortions. In effect, the legislation bars Planned Parenthood from $1.3 million of state government funds.
In his efforts to appear more conservative in comparison to his opponents, Kasich has allowed his failing bid for the presidency to affect the health and livelihoods of tens of thousands of Ohioans.
Since summer 2015, when videos were released alleging that Planned Parenthood profits from selling aborted fetal tissue, many Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers supported defunding the healthcare provider. Though a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of all charges and indicted its accusers for tampering with government records, Ohio representatives relied heavily on “evidence” from the videos when authoring HB 294. When asked about the legislation at a town hall meeting in Virginia on Monday, Kasich also referenced the falsified videos, saying that while he considers women’s health to be important, “you don’t have to be captive towards delivering it through an organization that frankly is largely discredited.”
That “discredited” organization annually provides healthcare to 70,000 Ohioans, while educating 40,000 more. Further, 65 percent of Ohioans actually oppose defunding the organization. The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are STD testing and treatment and providing contraception. Planned Parenthood also provides comprehensive sex education for both high school students and youth in juvenile justice programs, breast and cervical care screenings, HIV testing and treatment and domestic partner violence prevention. Only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions, though the number of abortions the organization performs should not matter, as the Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that the right to an abortion is constitutionally protected under the 14th Amendment.
Ohio is not the first state to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2011 and 2013, the Texas legislature approved laws that barred the organization from state funding. The effects of that legislation for women’s reproductive freedoms have been profound and devastating. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine early this February demonstrates that, in Texas counties where Planned Parenthood clinics were forced to close, the use of contraceptives fell and birth rates rose by 27 percent for the women who lost access to contraception. Another study conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project purports that between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women have tried to self-induce abortion, many due to decreased access to contraceptives and abortion services.
Kasich is not a sensible moderate who will redefine the ideology of the Republican party. Instead, as his signing of HB 294 confirms, he is a committed anti-choice conservative whose 2013 budget resulted in 25 percent of Ohio’s abortion clinics closing. Kasich poses as an advocate for women’s rights, saying last week that single women with children are the “real heroes” in America. But as his tone-deaf statement about women “coming out of their kitchens” to elect him demonstrates, Kasich does not truly stand for women. He attempted to win their votes with supportive words the day after signing away their healthcare. I appeal to all women and to any person who believes that reproductive healthcare should be accessible and affordable to refuse to support John Kasich in the 2016 Presidential election.
Rachel Sullivan, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at RSullivan16@wooster.edu.