After four consecutive near-sleepless nights, tons of research into economic and social implications for Ohio, hours of proofreading and editing testimony, and two hours driving to Columbus, I spoke to the Ohio Senate on January 27, 2016 in opposition to House Bill 294. Instead of studying for school like every other medical student in my class, I wrote the most compelling testimony I could personally imagine in support of Planned Parenthood Ohio – only to be rejected by a group of conservative, lobby-minded, religiously-fueled Ohio Senators, who already knew how they were going to vote when they walked onto the Senate floor that morning. After a whole 15 minutes, a group of old white guys decided that they were going to defund Planned Parenthood.
Okay – that may not exactly reflect the Senate Committee meeting that morning, but it’s what it felt like. It is heartbreaking as an Ohio woman, MSFC chapter founder, future physician, and abortion recipient to stand in a room and urge a group made up entirely of men to allow Planned Parenthood to stay open in Ohio. I know there is no federal or Ohio state monies used to fund abortion services. I know it is the STI testing, cancer screenings, low-cost contraception, and prenatal care that will be taken away from over 155,000 women in Ohio that go to Planned Parenthood annually. And I know as I watch as the passage of HB 249 cut $1.3 million from any “entity” that provides elective abortion, Planned Parenthood is the obvious target.
I based my testimony on the following argument: If the goal is to reduce the overall need for elective abortion in Ohio, how is it possibly the answer to take away the very means that prevents unwanted pregnancies in the first place? I tried to appeal to their fiscally-minded nature, arguing that by defunding these “entities” and Planned Parenthood in particular, the overall healthcare costs in Ohio will rise, with increased cancer, STI, and pre-term birth treatments needed, and more unwanted births occurring. Unfortunately, the now-viral LA Times article about the increased number of “poor” Texas births occurring after the defunding of abortion clinics in Texas had not yet been released, though I gladly sent Ohio Governor Kasich the article to further support my testimony.
Though we may have been unsuccessful that day, I fully realize that it is in my voice, my power as a future physician, and my unrelenting pressure on the legislators of this state that will make a difference. And it is combining my voice and power with others’ on our side that will truly change the course of history. MSFC chapters across Ohio have been working together in letter writing campaigns, testifying at the Statehouse, and even forming petitions for Governor Kasich to veto HB 294. Though we all realize PP Ohio is about to lose $1.3 million any day now, eventually being forced to close the doors of the few clinics left, it is incredibly inspiring to realize that future abortion providers are coming, our voices will be heard, and we will not back down. This story will continue.