Among the changes the Senate made to the House version of the Ohio budget was a $5 million boost to a program that funds centers that counsel pregnant women against abortion.
The $5 million would be five times the funding that normally goes to the Parenting and Pregnancy Program, which supports so-called pregnancy resource centers.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said the proposal will have no trouble passing the Republican-dominated Senate.
"I think that the large majority of our members would support what we’ve done here and frankly, would support additional funding on top of what’s in the bill now,” Obhof said.
Jamie Miracle at NARAL Pro Choice Ohio said these facilities, sometimes called "crisis pregnancy centers," often lie to women about the health risks of abortion. For instance, she said they can connect the procedure to an increased chance of breast cancer, which Miracle says has been proven to be untrue.
“We should not be spending this $5 million that will do nothing but hurt the people that come to them for care,” Miracle said.
Obhof said he’s unaware of that, and said that just because abortion rights groups are saying something, that doesn’t mean it’s true.
The American Cancer Society reports that there have been studies with mixed results, but the largest and most reliable one showed abortion does not affect a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.
Supporters of pregnancy resource centers say they employ medical professionals and provide emotional, medical and educational support for pregnant women – along with occasional material assistance. However, opponents say some are run entirely by volunteers, and offer no more medical expertise than free ultrasounds and STD tests.
The state is no longer funding health services at Planned Parenthood, and Obhof said that’s really what this is about.
“What they mean is, these are pro-life options and we’d prefer that you give the money to Planned Parenthood," Obhof said. "The legislature has chosen over time to make a decision that we would not prioritize organizations that perform non-therapeutic abortions. They took us to court. They lost."
The Ohio Department of Health announced in March it would halt funding for Planned Parenthood. The cuts came soon after a federal appeals court upheld an Ohio law barring public funds for entities that perform or promote abortions.
Miracle countered that this money is coming from federal Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) funds, which could be used for low-income housing.
“Housing stability has been proven to decrease infant mortality, and the state instead decided to give $5 million to these fake women’s health centers that provide incomplete care at best and lies and manipulation at worst,” Miracle said.
The past two budgets have each included $1 million for pregnancy resource centers. In addition to that, they can access money that comes from the $20 fee for each “choose life” license plate offered by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles since 2005, which have raised $585,000 in total.
The final Senate budget with some expected changes is likely to come out next week. It must pass the Senate, be reconciled with the House version and be signed by Gov. Mike DeWine by June 30.