Today, the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a law that will drastically restrict access to critical health care and education services in Ohio. In 2016, Governor John Kasich signed the law defunding Planned Parenthood and blocking access to health care and education provided by Planned Parenthood in Ohio. This law strips funding that helps Planned Parenthood provide 70,000 free STD and HIV tests, cancer screenings, domestic violence education through the Violence Against Women Act, and Planned Parenthood’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to reduce infant mortality. The Court’s decision will allow the law to take effect.
Last year, a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit unanimously ruled this law unconstitutional. Then Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, unhappy with the outcome, asked for an en banc (full court) hearing from the court. This ruling comes as Ohio politicians are pushing for a six-week ban that would ban abortion before most women know they’re pregnant. This is part of a nearly decade long attack on reproductive health care from Ohio politicians like Mike DeWine. Planned Parenthood continues to provide the full range of care at its health centers.
Statement from Dr. Leana Wen, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
I recently visited our Ohio health centers where I saw for myself the public health necessity of our Planned Parenthood programs that reduce maternal and infant mortality, cut STI and HIV rates, and provide breast and cervical cancer screenings. Today’s court ruling will roll back the gains to public health—harming women’s health, children’s health, and the health of families across Ohio. It is unconscionable that politicians continue seeking to restrict people from accessing essential health care - which is a human right. We know the consequences: it’s people’s health and their lives at stake. Planned Parenthood will never stop fighting for our patients and the communities we serve.
Statement from Iris E. Harvey, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio:
This is a devastating blow for people across Ohio. This law is an attack on health care access for the most at-risk communities in our state, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. We will continue to fight to ensure that the 80,000 Ohioans who rely on us for health care every year can continue to get birth control, cancer screenings, and other essential health care at Planned Parenthood health centers. To our patients, please know that we are here, our doors are open, and we will never stop fighting for you.
Statement from Kersha Deibel, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Southwest Ohio Region:
This is an incredible loss for our community. The law reduces access to sex education programs that teach young people about healthy relationships, and how to prevent STIs and unplanned pregnancies. This law would have an outsized impact on groups who have historically faced systemic barriers in accessing quality health care, including people with low incomes and communities of color. Blocking access to education programs for Ohio’s most underserved is unethical and downright dangerous for Ohio.
In 2017, Planned Parenthood supported over 80,000 patients in Ohio and their education and outreach programs reached over 45,000 individuals, administering over 170,000 sexually transmitted infection tests, over 18,000 HIV tests, and offering support and sex education in health centers and communities across Ohio.
In February 2016, Governor John Kasich signed a sweeping law that would bar Planned Parenthood health centers from providing care and educational services through several public programs – despite opposition from public health experts, Ohioans and advocates online. Ohio politicians have passed 21 anti-women’s health measures in recent years, and nearly half of all health centers that provided safe, legal abortion have shuttered since Governor Kasich took office.
This law will eliminate Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide its Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program – despite Ohio having one of the highest infant mortality rates for African Americans in the nation. It is the largest infant mortality prevention program in the state and serves hundreds of new or expectant mothers annually. Mahoning County Health Commissioner Pat Sweeney said: “They [Planned Parenthood] are very active and very effective. They specifically target women in the most at-risk population and work with those women to help with the significant issues of housing and food and employment, really significant issues, not just their health care.” Sweeney continued, “It’s going to be a really hard blow to the community.”
This law will also threaten access to over 70,000 free STD screenings that Planned Parenthood provides through the CDC STD Prevention program. It will also put at risk more than 5,000 free HIV and STD tests for individuals with higher risk factors for HIV, particularly within communities of African American women and men who have sex with men. Ohio has the 5th and 6th highest number of gonorrhea and chlamydia diagnoses in the country, respectively, and was ranked 12th nationwide in the number of HIV diagnoses. Jessica Sherman from the AIDS Resource Center testified against the bill saying: “We need to increase the number of cancer and STI screenings and people on birth control. If you want to improve health, then cutting this funding would be devastating and would be a giant step backward. When you cut funding, you say that women don’t deserve this reproductive health access.”
Groups facing discrimination, including LGBTQ people, people of color, people with disabilities, and women, are more likely to have low incomes -- and as a result are disproportionately more likely to rely on public programs. If this law took effect, it would disproportionately harm historically marginalized communities by creating more barriers to health care. This is taking away rights and opportunities from people who already face unequal and unfair treatment.
Planned Parenthood health centers serve an irreplaceable role in meeting the health care needs of those who rely on publicly funded health programs. More than half of Planned Parenthood's health centers across the U.S. are in rural or medically underserved areas, meaning that often without Planned Parenthood, patients would have nowhere else to turn for reproductive health care. Approximately forty percent of patients served by Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio are low-income. Seventy-five percent of the patients served by Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio are low-income.
About Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio: The mission of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio is to protect, promote, and provide empowered health care for generations of women, men, and families across Ohio. PPGOH serves approximately 65,000 patients annually throughout Ohio including metropolitan areas in Toledo, Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Mansfield, Cleveland, Columbus, and Athens. www.ppgoh.org.
About Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region: Serving 20 counties in southwestern Ohio and three in northern Kentucky, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio strengthens the community by providing access to high quality health care and education that empower people to make informed private decisions about their reproductive lives and sexual health. With seven health centers throughout the region, it is Planned Parenthood’s goal to provide reproductive health care services to any individual who wants or needs them, to advocate public policies which guarantee each individual's access to services, to advocate individual’s right to privacy and their ability to make reproductive decisions free of coercion and to provide human sexuality education which enhances the health and well-being of individuals in the community. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood affiliates serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources,Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.