By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio state legislators on Wednesday passed a bill blocking state and federal funds for groups that perform or promote abortions, effectively cutting $1.3 million annually used by Planned Parenthood clinics for HIV testing, pre-natal care and other programs.
Governor John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, is expected to sign the bill, which the state Senate had already passed.
House Bill 294, which passed 59 to 32, blocks women's health providers that also provide abortions, or groups that refer patients to those providers, from receiving funds from a variety of state and federal grants.
Planned Parenthood said the bill would hinder lower-income women's access to testing for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV tests and well-baby programs. According to its website, Planned Parenthood has 20 clinics in Ohio. Two provide abortions and all provide abortion referral.
With most Republicans keen to deny funds to Planned Parenthood, Kasich will have the opportunity to sign the bill ahead of the party's presidential primary on Feb. 20 in South Carolina.
Joe Andrews, spokesman for Kasich, said the bill furthers Ohio's policies.
"The Ohio Department of Health had already stopped awarding state dollars to Planned Parenthood and they were kicked to the back of the line for the federal government's family planning grants that the department administers. This bill further reinforces Ohio's policies," Andrews said Wednesday.
Opponents of the bill accused state Republicans of grandstanding, noting that the timing of its passage was convenient for Kasich as he campaigns in a crowded field for nomination to represent his party in the November election.
"There's no legitimate justification for defunding Planned Parenthood. Every excuse by legislators has been debunked," Kellie Copeland executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights advocacy group, said on Wednesday.
"Clearly the motivation behind the content and timing of this legislation is to bolster John Kasich's campaign to anti-choice voters in South Carolina," Copeland added.
Proponents of the bill said the funding transfer will help combat infant mortality because it re-directs $250,000 for new parent education.
Under Ohio law no state funds are used to provide abortions but state funds are used by Planned Parenthood to provide other healthcare.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat, said the bill would be counterproductive.
"It will likely increase the number of abortions in Ohio by cutting access to birth control and access to sex education in Ohio," she said.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer, Editing by Ben Klayman and David Gregorio)