Carmen Winant remembers her two important moments with Planned Parenthood.
The first was when she was 16. She was afraid that she was pregnant as a result of a bad decision. She left the facility within an hour after receiving STI tests and a pill, free of cost.
Her second time was when she was 31. This time, after trying to conceive for about six months, Winant suspected she might finally be pregnant.
She made calls to hospitals and urgent care centers only to spend most of her time on hold. Then she realized, “I could just call Planned Parenthood.”
“I met with the doctor; my pregnancy was confirmed,” Winant said in her testimony. “I felt safe and completely respected.”
Now, almost 9 months pregnant, Winant stands in front of a panel of senators with a simple message: Don’t defund Planned Parenthood.
But state lawmakers voted otherwise.
The Ohio Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would that would ban state money from going to organizations that provide abortions. The vote was 22-8.
If the bill becomes law, approximately $1.4 million in state funding would be diverted away from Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio CEO Stephanie Kight said her facilities would remain open despite the passing of the bill, or even if the bill becomes law.
“We’ve been here for 85 years providing health care and health education to Ohioans, and we’re going to be here in the future,” Kight said. “How they’re going to replace us, I have no idea."
However, Kight said the passing of the bill was “a shameful moment for these Ohio legislatures,” who are mostly white men “using women’s healthcare to boost their own political career.”
Sen. Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said the bill redirects health funds to Ohio healthcare providers – that do not provide abortions – to ensure that women and children are able to receive comprehensive health care and family planning services.
But Winant disagrees with that.
“For me, that (Planned Parenthood) was the resource,” Winant said. “I can only hope that when my daughter is born, she has access to this incredible resource.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Margaret Conditt, R-Liberty, said the bill, despite the claims of opposition, would help women and is not strictly about Planned Parenthood.
Kight said Planned Parenthood may lose funding, but the bill may have far-reaching effects on other healthcare providers.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the full impact yet of what this could mean to our community,” Kight said.
Local health departments also may not be allowed to coordinate with hospitals or insurance companies that provide abortion services, according to the language of the bill, said Kelli Arthur Hykes, director of public health policy.
“That really undermines the purpose of public health: to protect the entire community,” Hykes said.
The federal government provides money to Ohio – as part of the Violence Against Women Act – to fund education and unwanted pregnancy prevention programs. Healthcare providers then apply for the grants, which the state government awards based on which organization will be most effective in using the money.
Those grants are currently awarded to Planned Parenthood.
About 10 people stood to testify against the bill on Tuesday morning. The group consisted of medical students, former patients and Planned Parenthood employees.
“For the sake of STI screening for healthy people like myself, cancer prevention for underserved women, and in order to directly reduce the need for abortion in the state of Ohio, I urge you to vote against House Bill 294,” said Tiffany Stainfield, a medical student at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The House would need to vote on the bill before submitting it to Gov. John Kasich’s desk, which may take place on Feb. 9.
Joshua Lim is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @JoshuaLim93.