The ruse that the anti-choice movement is about “life” has been harder to maintain in recent years, as lawmakers have starting attacking contraception access (which reduces the need for abortion, duh). Gov. John Kasich of Ohio took it a step further Sunday night and signed a bill that merges his party’s anti-contraception and anti-abortion agendas into one. The budget bill (of course!) packs a one-two-three punch of making it harder for women to prevent pregnancies, harder for women to terminate pregnancies, and harder for low-income women to keep their babies.
As is typical with these sorts of things, the abortion restrictions are getting the bulk of the headlines. HB59 has a bunch of severe anti-abortion riders on it, including a mandatory ultrasound humiliation ritual and restrictions to make it harder for abortion providers to work with local hospitals (directly contradicting the right’s claim that its newfound love for clinic restrictions is about making abortion safer).
What’s not getting as many headlines is this: The defunding of contraception services in the state may manage to do even more damage to women’s health than the abortion restrictions. As reported by NPR, Ohio Republicans barely bothered to claim that defunding family planning services is about abortion. Family planning centers will now basically not be able to get any funding at all for contraception services, even if they don’t provide abortion. Merely making abortion referrals, which is something that all medically respectable clinics do, is enough to make your clinic last priority for funding. And it’s not just contraception providers that are hurt by acknowledging that abortion exists. If a rape crisis center counsels a woman who asks about abortion, they will also be defunded.
Since the war on contraception remains as unpopular as it ever was, anti-choice activists are still doing the obligatory dance of pretending that contraception services will still be available. Michael Gonidakis, the head of Ohio Right to Life, implied to NPR that there were other providers of birth control within “walking proximity” of the contraception clinics his group is lobbying to close. I say implied because he avoided saying the words “contraception” or “birth control” out loud, instead trying to steer the conversation toward the “adoption reform” part of the bill. Indeed, HB59 is largely built around not just trying to increase the rate of unwanted child-bearing, but to make it harder for women to keep their babies. The budget for welfare services to help single mothers was cut, but crisis pregnancy centers that lay the adoption pressure on thick got more money.
Taken together, the cuts to contraception funding, the cuts to welfare, the restrictions on abortion, and the money flowing to crisis pregnancy centers paint a very grim view of how Ohio Republicans see women—and low-income women especially: as baby factories that need to dramatically increase production. You can call that “pro-life” if you want, but it’s increasingly clear that it’s just anti-woman.