- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2019

Ohio officials have given notice to Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that the state may soon end their funding if they “perform or promote” elective abortions, under a state law recently deemed constitutional by a federal appeals court.

Ohio Health Secretary Amy Acton issued a memo Thursday to state grant recipients saying they have 30 days to come into compliance with the 2016 law.

“In future contracts and subgrants, [the Health Department] will add additional assurance language and require acknowledgment signatures to ensure compliance with this law,” Ms. Acton said in the memo.

Earlier this month in an 11-6 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld Ohio’s law.

Writing for the majority, Judge Jeffrey Sutton said Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio would have no constitutional “due process” rights violated and could not prove a woman’s right to access abortion services would be unduly burdened by implementing the abortion-services restriction.

“Just as it [Ohio] has no obligation to provide a platform for an individual’s free speech, say a Speaker’s Corner in downtown Columbus, it has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion,” Judge Sutton wrote.

“This is a devastating blow for people across Ohio,” Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said in a statement. “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 LGBTQA community.”

An official with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declined to provide comment to The Washington Times.

As Ohio’s attorney general, Mr. DeWine had represented the state in the lawsuit. His office released a statement to The Associated Press saying the governor is “pleased” with the decision, as the state legislature has the right to decide what it will fund.

In 2018, Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio received $600,000 for non-abortion services, including breast and cervical cancer screenings as well as services under the Violence Against Women Act.

Planned Parenthood operates 23 clinics in Ohio, which issues preventive health care grants to help low-income women. Three clinics provide abortions.

Under the Hyde Amendment, federal taxpayer dollars cannot fund abortions. Ohio’s law bans organizations — even those that provide only non-abortion services — from receiving state funds if affiliated clinics “perform or promote” abortions that are not medically necessary. The 2016 law was enacted largely along party lines with strong Republican majorities in the legislature.

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit had agreed with plaintiffs that Ohio’s law violated two Planned Parenthood clinics’ right to due process and free speech rights. Mr. DeWine requested an appeal to the full court, which sided with the state.

On the question of whether ending public funding for Planned Parenthood would represent an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, Judge Sutton wrote, “Maybe; maybe not.”

The judge pointed to Planned Parenthood’s own testimony that it will continue providing abortions, even with the loss of funding.

“Private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain governmental funding to support their activities,” Judge Sutton wrote in the ruling issued March 12.

Ohio is the latest jurisdiction to seek to put the pinch on Planned Parenthood in an effort to shut down the nation’s largest abortion provider. In January, a split three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld Texas stripping $3.4 million in Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Last month, the federal government announced it would impose new funding restrictions on clinics or organizations that offer “abortion referrals.”

In February, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar issued a new rule ending Title X funding for health care providers that offer referrals to abortion providers. The rule — called the “gag rule” by opponents — will cancel an estimated $60 million in funding to Planned Parenthood.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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