As the debate on Texas’ Senate Bill 5 and Wendy Davis’ remarkable filibuster was taking up much of the nation’s attention, Governor John Kasich (R-OH) signed a budget Sunday evening that should go down in history as one of the most aggressive acts against working women that we’ve seen in the 21st century.
From tax policy to health care policy to actual lectures written to be delivered to women, to mandatory, unnecessary invasive procedures, Ohio’s Tea Party Republicans put together a wish list — with the worst provisions added at the last minute with no debate — that places new burdens on the state’s most vulnerable women.
Like Republican legislatures in Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan, Ohio’s Republicans are refusing to acknowledge that President Obama won their state twice. Instead they’re relying on electoral maps redrawn after the 2010 GOP landslide in hopes that 2014 will be another low-turnout election to push an agenda fit for the nation’s reddest states.
Here are five ways Ohio’s Tea Party has intentionally made life more difficult for poor women in their state.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.com
Rejecting Medicaid Expansion
Recognizing that his state would be giving up billions in federal dollars while still paying the taxes assessed by the Affordable Care Act, Governor Kasich tried to get his state Republicans to accept Medicaid expansion, the way Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has.
But Ohio’s Tea Partiers wouldn’t budge. Kasich persisted, even as his former allies in tri-corner hats rose up to attack him.
The final budget passed by Republicans last weekend did not include expansion, even though a majority of Ohioans support it.
“More than 153,000 Ohio women between the ages of 19 and 44 could gain health insurance coverage if Ohio expands the Medicaid program under health reform,” reports Policy Matters Ohio, resulting in lower infant mortality rates, healthier children and better maternal health. The program would have saved Ohio $48 million by 2022 on breast and cervical cancer screenings alone.
But the budget did include anti-abortion rights provisions that are as aggressive as those of nearly any state in the union.
Kasich had a choice — since he has a line-item veto — and he had a whole weekend to choose the measures he wanted or give in to the Tea Party completely.
Apparently, in an effort to repair his relationship with his party’s extreme base, Kasich vetoed 22 measures — but none that had to do with limiting abortion rights.
Tax Increases On The Poor
Combine an income tax cut that goes mostly to the rich and a sales tax increase that disproportionately affects the poor and you have a recipe to punish the women who earn the least in Ohio.
The 10 percent income-tax cuts included in House Bill 59 shift taxes to low- and middle-income Ohioans from upper-income residents who are in a better position to pay. Ohio already leans too heavily on those at the bottom: non-elderly in the bottom fifth of tax filers pay, on average, 11.6 percent of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1 percent pay 6.3 percent. Ohio’s income tax, in which top earners pay a higher percentage on higher earnings, provides balance. Income-tax cuts and sales-tax hikes in this budget make the situation worse. On average, the bottom quintile of earners will pay $12 more annually under the new plan. People in the third quintile – the middle – see an average tax cut of $9 annually. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent get an average tax cut of over $6,000 per year!
The cuts are supposed to drive “job creation” but Patton points out that most of the cuts go to self-employed people with no employees and encourage tax avoidance. Struggling families will be left with less money as health care options for single mothers are being eliminated.
Huge Cuts To Planned Parenthood
This image of Governor Kasich signing Ohio’s budget surrounded by men has already gone viral for a simple reason: 52 percent of Ohioans oppose cuts to Planned Parenthood but these smiling gentlemen cut $1.4 million to the family planning organization anyway, effectively defunding all the organization’s clinics in the state.
As you probably know, only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are related to abortion — 71 percent of its clientele receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy. Nationwide, one out of five women has used Planned Parenthood for care at least once.
Forcing Doctors To Demean Women
Ohio’s new anti-abortion-rights laws include a series of provisions designed to demean or mislead women seeking abortion. These new big-government burdens were not recommended by physicians but are completely political attempts to shame, and influence the decisions of, women.
Rape crisis centers that receive state funding will not be allowed to advise girls and women that they can terminate the pregnancy. If a woman seeks an abortion, she will have to first listen to a speech written by a Republican politician and then pay for her own ultrasound, which has no medical purpose. A doctor also needs to try to find the fetus’ heartbeat and inform the woman if he does, just in case the experience isn’t traumatic enough.
Women of means, of course, can travel to another state that does not demand these unnecessary requirements. Poor women, of course, likely cannot.
It All Adds Up To Reducing Poor Women’s Options
Ohio’s anti-choice Tea Partiers are certainly, as Rachel Maddow says, “innovative.”
They’ve invented a Catch 22. “Clinics must have an agreement with a local hospital to transfer patients there in the case of an emergency, but public hospitals are barred from entering into those agreements,” explains The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner.
The state department of health, appointed by Governor Kasich, gets to decide if clinics can operate without these transfer agreements and can void any he doesn’t like.
Abortion opponents claim this is about safety. But the procedure is statistically safe — safer than giving birth. Clearly the goal is to close clinics, which limits women’s options and leads to more unintended pregnancies.
Their objective isn’t just to redefine what makes a clinic safe, it’s to actually redefine when life begins. “And Republican policymakers in the state decided to redefine the words ‘pregnancy’ and ‘fetus’ in state law — the budget decides that a woman is pregnant even before a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine lining,” writes MSNBC’s Steve Benen. “The effect of this policy may prevent a woman from using an IUD in the state of Ohio.”
If these redefinitions of modern medicine withstand court tests in Ohio, expect to see them spread.
“Ohio is a testing ground for abortion restrictions,” said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute.
Worst of all, the Ohio Tea Party is making it both harder to prevent getting pregnant, says Slate’s Amanda Marcotte. Clinics that distribute birth control to poor women will be defunded if the even suggest abortion as option. Meanwhile, more money will be given to clinics that exist to limit women’s options.
To Marcotte, the Ohio Tea Party’s agenda reveals a dark truth about the anti-choice movement laid bare:
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.