Washington, D.C. – Today, a U.S. Court of Appeals protected access to health care and education at Planned Parenthood for tens of thousands of Ohioans. This ruling will protect Ohioans’ access to over 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.
In the opinion, the Court reaffirmed that it is illegal to block care at Planned Parenthood, and would also be deeply harmful to the communities its health centers serve.
This comes as the Trump-Pence administration has pushed policy after policy to try to bar care at Planned Parenthood. Most recently, the Trump-Pence administration announced plans to dramatically shift the priorities of the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care -- Title X -- in order to try to bar care at specialized reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood. The Trump-Pence administration also issued a letter encouraging states to block care at Planned Parenthood through Medicaid and reversed an Obama era rule that reinforced protections within the Title X program. This is despite poll after poll showing widespread public support for Planned Parenthood.
Statement from Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“We applaud the court’s decision to protect access to health care and education at Planned Parenthood. No matter what Trump, Pence, or other politicians might say, your body is your own. If it is not, you cannot be truly free or equal. Everyone deserves the opportunity to control their lives at the most basic level: our bodies, our families, and our paths in life. ”
Statement from Jerry Lawson, CEO, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio:
“We are thrilled that today’s decision will safeguard our patients’ access to care. This victory is critically important for tens of thousands of Ohioans across our state that rely on Planned Parenthood for care and education each year. Our patients deserve to have their health care come before political agendas; this isn’t about politics, it’s about access to health care.”
Statement from Iris E. Harvey, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio:
“On this day, the court decided against Ohio lawmakers who continue to attack Ohioans’ access to health care. Planned Parenthood is here to stay and we will continue to fight for thousands of Ohioans who are in need of our care. People are sick and tired of politicians taking away their health care and their rights, and we won’t stand for it. Ohioans deserve and need access to education and the full spectrum of reproductive health care.”
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 20 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 would have slashed Planned Parenthood’s 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 would also end access to over 70,000 free STD screenings that Planned Parenthood provides through the CDC STD Prevention program. It would also cut 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.