Columbus — Fake women’s health centers mislead, delay, and outright lie to women seeking information about pregnancy options. This is done with a goal of blocking women from accessing timely abortion care. To reward that harmful behavior, Senate Republicans have added a $5,000,000 budget allocation to the “Parenting and Pregnancy Program,” which funds so-called crisis pregnancy centers.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Deputy Director Jaime Miracle said: “Five million dollars for lies. That’s what the Ohio Senate is voting on today. A person’s decision about their own health care should be made between the individual and their doctor. The state should not be funding predatory organizations that draw people in through misleading advertisements, trick them by buying locations right next door to actual abortion clinics, and cause them to miss appointments that may take weeks to reschedule. These sinister tactics are all designed to prevent timely abortion access. This is not health care. This ‘Parenting and Pregnancy Program’ is not what Ohioans want to spend their tax dollars on, when our state is facing an infant and maternal mortality crisis. But, this is what the Ohio Senate Republican leadership has decided to prioritize. The general assembly needs to remove this from the budget before they send it to DeWine’s desk.”

Supported by anti-abortion extremist organizations, this budget allocation is a $4,000,000 increase from the amount allocated in previous years. The line item draws funding from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal block grant designed to provide direct financial assistance to families in need. In the Ohio Senate floor debate on the bill, Sen. Sandra Williams moved to amend the budget to remove the allocation. Her amendment was tabled by the Republican majority.

In Ohio, the infant mortality rate for white babies has gone down, but the rate for black babies has not followed suit, making the racial disparity in this health outcome larger, not smaller. While some good initial first steps have been made, if the state is going to actually address the problem, policy decisions must be made based on data from experts in the field, not from the wish list of a political base.

On infant mortality, Miracle continued: “No matter what their supporters say, the ‘Parenting and Pregnancy Program’ isn’t the solution to Ohio’s infant and maternal mortality problem. This funding doesn’t go to medical providers to make sure people get the healthcare they need during pregnancy, and the funding certainly doesn’t go to the individual people in need of assistance, as the TANF program was designed to do. This program is a way to funnel money into religiously affiliated, mostly volunteer-run anti-abortion organizations who have a track record of lying to and manipulating the people they claim to serve. Instead of funding these misleading and harmful centers, the state should be funding programs to expand access to culturally appropriate community-based organizations proven to reduce the infant and maternal mortality rate.”

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