The election for president that concluded last week represented a stunning reelection win for President Obama and a sound thumping for Republicans like GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and incumbent Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who failed fatally on most issues important to women, including abortion rights, access to contraception and the right to control their own health choices, among others.
Democrats win with women
Among the election residue left from the 2012 race for the White House is that women, who out number and out vote men in the nation and in bellwether Ohio, no longer want white men to call the tune when it come to them, their bodies and their health choices.
In Ohio, the state that pushed President Obama over the finish line for the second time in four years, the gap between Republicans and women who support the party, its leaders and policies, was 11 percentage points. What is clear is that the party that rubs women the wrong way will pay a price at the ballot box.
John Kasich, the 60-year old white Tea Party governor who won a close election two years ago, is already running for reelection even though that contest is still two years hence. Gov. Kasich, a husband and father to two teenage girls, would no doubt want to narrow the gap his party has with women and issues important to them like health care, good jobs and a growing economy, peace not war and equal pay for equal work, among others.
With the numbers from the presidential campaign clearer than ever, Statehouse watchers are wondering why Buckeye lawmakers, as their first order of business, are pursuing a plan that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood services by putting it last on a list of operations eligible for funding.
GOP bills aimed to curtail reproductive rights
If the bill passed Wednesday in the Ohio House of Representatives on a party-line vote of 13-9 is eventually signed into law by Gov. Kasich, it would result in cut of seven to 10 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding, or about $2 million, according to testimony offered yesterday, that could impact nearly 100,000 Ohioans. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio receive about $1.6 million each year in federal funds passed through the state Department of Health.
“The governor is pro-life and supports policies that protect the sanctity of life,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told CGE. Notwithstanding the intentional vagueness of the Nichols’ statement, other news sources say the governor will sign it.
Democrats seize the issue
Democrats, fresh from a big win in a big state, are eagerly awaiting Gov. Kasich’s next move on House Bill 298, that would bring great harm to Planned Parenthood, a national agency that offers critical health care services like cancer screenings and HIV testing but is best known for its abortion-related services.
“Governor Kasich often comments on pending legislation, but after working to personally calendar out the lame duck session with Republican leadership, Kasich wants to pretend that he has no knowledge or opinion of the Planned Parenthood defunding measure that would harm the nearly 100,000 Ohioans depending on the ,” Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said. “Ohioans deserve a clear answer on whether the Governor will desert them and support this attack on Planned Parenthood, or whether he’ll commit to vetoing this deeply troubling attack on women and preventive health care.”
At the hearing in the Ohio House yesterday, people testifying against the bill said Planned Parenthood is a name people recognize and trust, and reducing funding would reduce women’s access to health care. They also pointed out that Federal money already cannot be used for abortions.
Rep. Nancy Garland [D-New Albany] put yesterday’s hearing in perspective: “Extreme politicians lost on election night because of their anti-women, anti-family agenda. Republicans here in the Statehouse have failed to get the message”
No Republicans spoke for the bill, but Stephanie Krider, director of legislative affairs for Ohio Right to Life, did. She said the proposed priority funding system would increase the number of health care facilities benefiting from federal money and increase options for women, according to news sources.
“Our preference is if there’s a community health center that’s providing family planning services for women and they can do it on a scale where they can absorb, we’d love to have women going there instead of Planned Parenthood where they’re being pushed toward abortion and their abortion agenda,” she said.
The bill in its current form would establish a tiered priority system to award several federal grants. Public health agencies would receive funding first, followed by community health centers, privately-run practices and centers that provide comprehensive care in addition to family planning services and lastly family planning services like Planned Parenthood.
Advocates for women were quick to pounce on Gov. Kasich and Ohio House Republicans, saying they “didn’t get the message last Tuesday.”
“Immediately following Election Day and our victories that night, they announced that they would reintroduce HB 298 and HB 125 – their extremist attacks to effectively defund Planned Parenthood and suppress a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health care,” Liz Brown, Deputy Executive Director Ohio Democratic Party, said. “Voters in Ohio sent an unambiguous message last Tuesday and clearly rejected the Republican War on Women. The fact that they have rushed to reintroduce these extreme bills shows that the Ohio Republicans only care about their radical agenda and not the women of Ohio.”
Kasick’s close win in 2010
In 2010, then-candidate John Kasich defeated incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland by about 77,000 votes statewide. The former Lehman Brothers banker failed to win even 50 percent of the vote out of a low turnout of only 49 percent of registered voters. In short, Kasich is governor because only 23.5 percent of Ohio voters voted for him.
With a renewed and reinvigorated electorate, Gov. Kasich can expect to be haunted from today to Election Day in 2014 if he signs HB 298 or HB 125, the so-called Heartbeat Bill because it forces a woman to bear a child once a heartbeat is detected, into law. Republicans are already weak with women, and exacerbating that gap seems an unwise choice for a career politician like John Kasich.
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