COLUMBUS, Ohio | Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign a bill stripping government money from Planned Parenthood, a move that might help him with conservatives who dominate the upcoming Republican presidential primary in South Carolina.
The legislation cleared the state legislature and was headed to Kasich on Wednesday, a day after the primary in New Hampshire, where a tough stance against Planned Parenthood might have been received with less enthusiasm by its many moderate Republican voters. The Ohio governor finished second in the New Hampshire race behind Donald Trump but ahead of a group of mainstream GOP candidates who vied for moderate support.
No one is acknowledging that the 2016 presidential calendar might have played a part in when Kasich would get the bill.
Republican House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger has said the governor’s presidential bid has no bearing on the issues that come before his chamber, telling reporters late last month that it’s been “business as usual” since Kasich announced his run over the summer.
Asked whether it would benefit Kasich to sign the Planned Parenthood bill going into the primaries, Rosenberger said he did not know.
“I think it’s a good thing for him to sign it for good public policy — period,” Rosenberger told reporters last month at the Statehouse.
The House gave its final approval Wednesday on a mostly party-line vote, with the bill’s Democratic co-sponsor voting in favor.
Earlier Wednesday, Planned Parenthood supporters delivered handwritten valentines to state lawmakers — along with condoms and pamphlets about the organization’s services — in an effort to urge representatives to oppose the bill.
The bill targets the roughly $1.3 million in grant funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s Department of Health. The money, which is mostly federal, supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prevention of violence against women.
The legislation would prohibit such funds from going to entities that perform or promote abortions, their affiliates and those that contract with an entity that performs abortions. It would not affect the amount of money available for prevention and screening programs, just who could get it.
Kasich spent Wednesday campaigning in South Carolina, home of the South’s first primary on Feb. 20. He had events scheduled there for Thursday and Friday.
Editorials in The (Toledo) Blade, the (Akron) Beacon Journal and The New York Times have called on the governor to veto the legislation — so has Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Kasich is unlikely to reject the bill.
During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire this past weekend, a voter in Concord asked Kasich whether he’d support federal funding for Planned Parenthood if it were part of a balanced budget. After a brief, heated exchange, Kasich told the woman, “We’re not gonna fund it.”
Ohio’s legislation follows an outcry among abortion opponents around the country after the release of secretly recorded videos by activists alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law. Planned Parenthood has called the videos misleading and denied any wrongdoing, saying a handful of its clinics provided fetal tissue for research while receiving only permissible reimbursement for costs.
Three of Planned Parenthood’s 28 locations in Ohio provide abortions. The organization has said it has no fetal tissue donation program in Ohio, where such donations are illegal.
Planned Parenthood is not named in the legislation. But the bill’s backers have acknowledged the organization will be the most affected. They want the money to go to health centers and other providers that do not perform abortions.
State and federal laws already prohibit taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Planned Parenthood leaders have emphasized that should the bill become law, the organization would continue to provide health care services.
“Planned Parenthood’s doors are staying open,” Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, has said.