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Youngstown health officials say defunding Planned Parenthood a bad idea

Health officials in Youngstown say defunding Planned Parenthood could negatively impact local infant mortality rates

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - The Ohio legislature has voted to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood, whose programs, according to Mahoning County's health commissioner, were integral in combating infant mortality.

Health officials in Youngstown work closely with Planned Parenthood on a program called Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies. The program sends employees to visit with African-American women from the time they are pregnant to when the child reaches 2 years old.

This group is the most at-risk for the sudden death of infants, even more so than babies in Iran, according to data published by the Mahoning Youngstown Infant Mortality Coalition.

"They are very active and very effective. They specifically target women in the most at-risk population and work with those women to help with the significant issues of housing and food and employment, really significant issues, not just their health care," said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Pat Sweeney.

The Youngstown Health Department is worried that the decision out of Columbus to not give $1.3 million in funds to Planned Parenthood could hurt their goal of lowering infant mortality rates.

"Planned Parenthood is an integral part of that, because of this program that they do, so if those funds were to go away, just imagine," said Youngstown Health Commissioner Erin Bishop.

You may not have to imagine it. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is likely to sign the bill into law, saying on Facebook, "Planned Parenthood can't and won't intimidate me. I'm proudly pro-life."

Ohio Right to Life, the state's largest anti-abortion organization, said even if the money isn't spent directly on abortion, it helps "keep the lights on" at Planned Parenthood.

One Republican lawmaker who voted for the bill says the infant mortality rate for abortions is 100 percent. Even though under Ohio law taxpayer money can't be used on abortions, he says he is against some Planned Parenthood performing them.

"The legislation is crystal clear that the money has to go to community health centers, community action agencies and any other qualified health care facilities," said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.

Local health officials say, however, that won't help the mothers who rely on Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies right now.

"It's going to be a really hard blow to the community. It really will be," Sweeney said.

Planned Parenthood is still fighting, even after Kasich made his statement. The organization is running advertisements asking Kasich to veto the bill.


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