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Right to Life Chapters Sue to Prevent Medicaid Expansion in Ohio

October 22, 2013

Conservatives, the joke goes, believe life begins at conception and ends at birth. Now, anti-abortion forces and their Republican allies in Ohio are doing their best to show that jest is true.

As the Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday, a group of Republican state legislators is suing to prevent GOP Governor John Kasich's move to accept $2.56 billion in federal funding to expand the Medicaid insurance program to 275,000 low income residents in the Buckeye State. Their lawsuit is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order the state Controlling Board to reverse its decision in support of Kasich's request, one opposed by GOP majorities in the General Assembly. As it turns out, the four state legislators who filed the suit are being joined by the Right to Life chapters in Cleveland and Cincinnati:

As for the two local Right to Life groups' participation, the lawsuit says both are opposed to federally funded Medicaid expansion because "funds associated with the (Affordable Care Act) expansion because those funds, directly and/or indirectly, will be used to jeopardize unborn life." The local Right to Life groups say they did not get a chance to testify because the issue was brought before the Controlling Board.
The Cleveland and Cincinnati chapters' involvement shows a clear split in the Right to Life community over Medicaid expansion; the Ohio chapter supports it and executive director Mike Gonidakis often spoke in support of expansion.

Spoke in support with good reason. After all, the Medicaid expansion won't just provide health insurance for roughly 300,000 Ohioans. That funding also means cash-strapped hospitals and state government won't be stuck with the bill for the costs of treating tens of thousands of insured patients. (That's why, the Rand Corporation concluded in a recent study, accepting federal dollars for the Medicaid expansion is such a great deal for the states, even when Washington's contribution drops to 90 percent after 2017.) As it turns out, today Medicaid not only pays for a third of nursing home care in the United States; it also a third of all childbirths. (The figure is one-half in Texas, where Governor Rick Perry also learned the hard way that slashing family planning spending would actually cost the Lone Star State three times as much in health care spending for all those extra children.)
Basic math and even basic human compassion make the choice an easy one. While its members in Cincinnati and Cleveland did not read the memo, the web site for the umbrella group Ohio Right to Life explained:

Expaning [sic] Medicaid in Ohio would provide services to an additional 275,000 people. It is our mission to protect the life of those concieved [sic] and born from conception to death. By expanding Medicaid we are ensuring lives are protected through medical care.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer agreed, as her statement in accepting federal Medicaid dollars for her state showed. "It's pro-life, it's saving lives, it is creating jobs, it is saving hospitals." As for Governor John Kasich, he warned the Republican legislators now trying to reverse the Buckeye State's Medicaid expansion:

"When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he's going to ask you what you did for the poor. You'd better have a good answer."


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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