Tax credit for donors to anti-abortion pregnancy centers moves toward full Ohio House vote

By: - December 12, 2019 12:45 am

A photo of the Ohio Statehouse from Wikimedia Commons.

A bill giving a tax credit to donors for pregnancy centers who promote carrying a pregnancy to term was approved in the state House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, moving it toward a full House vote.

Supporters and critics of House Bill 297 made their cases in the fourth committee hearing on the bill, including a member of the one of the nine remaining abortion clinics in the state. Seven are ambulatory surgical clinics, and two are medication abortion services, according to NARAL.

The bill allows tax credit for cash donations to non-profit, federally tax-exempt pregnancy centers, “the principal purpose of which is to provide free assistance for pregnant women in carrying their pregnancies to term,” according to analysis of the bill done by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

The credit would be 50 percent of the annual donation made.

Rep. Derek Merrin
Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township

Committee Chair Derek Merrin, R-Monclova Township, presented amendments to the bill, which included a cap of $1,000 for any tax credit and an expiration date for the credits of 2025. Merrin also said the amended bill would limit donations to pregnancy centers within the state of Ohio.

“I think this amendment goes a long way in strengthening this bill, and also putting it in a position to make it all the way through the legislature,” Merrin said.

Amendments were approved on a vote of 12 to 7 along party lines.

Supporters of the bill say the tax credit incentivizes donors to give money to their centers, which rely on donations to help with their programs and services.

“We have a governor who has made the welfare of children a very high priority in his administration,” said Vivian Koob, founder and executive director of Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton. “This initiative fits very well with those priorities which are shared by a vast majority of our Ohio congressmen and senators.”

The patient care advocate for Capital Care Toledo, Amelia Stower, said this bill promotes Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) that are doing work which is “harmful and wrong.”

“CPC’s are dangerous — they deceive and lie to patients,” Stower testified. “When people go to CPCs, they will get religion based lectures on how abortion is wrong. They will use scare tactics such as the false claim that there is a link between breast cancer and abortions or that have an abortion will cause future miscarriages or infertility.”

Koob and others from the Dayton center decried arguments that they were not medical facilities, and listed off medical professionals that work within their center.

“What we do not do is promote or refer for abortion,” Koob said. “We are grounded in natural law, which is supported by our faith beliefs, that all life is precious and that each human person should be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve as children of our creator.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Greater Ohio’s vice president for Government Affairs and Public Advocacy, Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, challenged the legislature for diverting money away from her organization only to bring tax incentives forward for CPCs.

“Now this committee wants to tip the scale even further away from real health care providers to fake clinics,” Blauvelt-Copelin said in a written statement to the committee. “This tax incentive is unlike any other in Ohio and puts Crisis Pregnancy Centers above all other charitable and service-providing entities in Ohio.”

The bill now moves to the House Rules and Reference Committee before being presented to the Ohio House for a full vote.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.