Ohio bill to strip Planned Parenthood funds heads to Kasich

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — 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. Kasich 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 whether the 2016 presidential calendar might have played a part in when Kasich would get the bill.

Republican Senate President Keith Faber told reporters Wednesday he believed South Carolinians would like the bill but that wasn’t a consideration.

“I don’t know that our timing has anything to do with that,” Faber said. “We didn’t even think of that, frankly.”

The House gave its final approval Wednesday on a mostly party-line vote, with the bill’s Democratic co-sponsor voting in favor and two Republicans voting against it.

The bill targets the roughly $1.3 million in grant funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. 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.

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.

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. “We’re not gonna fund it,” he said during the exchange.

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

Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, called the passage a victory for the anti-abortion movement. “For a state like Ohio — it’s a purple state — to be able to pass something like defundingPlanned Parenthood, I think that gives hope to other states.”

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’s doors would remain open.

“This money is not going to change anything about the health care or abortion care that we provide to women in Ohio,” said Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. “These are community health programs that are being cut out and destroyed.”

Kight’s group announced later Wednesday it is targeting Kasich in online ads slated to appear on Facebook and news sites across Ohio.