First anti-abortion policy post-Issue 1 enters Ohio Senate

By: - November 15, 2023 4:50 am

State Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Ashtabula, testifies before the Senate Health Committee in 2021 on her bill to allow Ohio to enact a total abortion ban if Roe V. Wade is overturned. (File Photo from The Ohio Channel.)

Legislation that would give tax credits for donations to “pregnancy resource centers” which do not advise individuals on abortion was introduced in the Ohio Senate this week.

State Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Ashtabula, brought Senate Bill 159 to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. The bill seeks to allow a tax credit for those who donate to “pregnancy resource centers,” centers that often conduct ultrasounds, give advice to pregnant individuals and also provide pregnancy classes and free materials. Typically the resource centers are affiliated with religious organizations or churches, and some receive state funding by way of grants from the governor’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, so long as they don’t promote abortion.

Ohio state Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Ashtabula County. Official photo.

Under the bill, a tax credit can be received if donors give to a “qualifying pregnancy resource center,” meaning the center has 501(c)(3) non-profit status, a “principal office or a presence” in Ohio, at least a 50% client base that “claim to be Ohio residents” and a principal purpose “to provide free or low-cost assistance” like pregnancy testing and “similar services for pregnant women carrying their pregnancies to term,” according to a Legislative Service Center analysis of the bill.

The cost to the state for these tax credits would be capped at $10 million under the bill.

Donations are eligible for a tax credit only if they go to a center that “does not perform, promote or contract with an organization that performs nontherapeutic abortions, and is not affiliated … with a person that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions,” according to the analysis.

“A nontherapeutic abortion is one that is performed or induced when the life of the mother would not be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or when the pregnancy of the mother was not the result of rape or incest reported to a law enforcement agency,” the LSC analysis stated.

Abortion rights advocates have decried the centers, which they refer to as “crisis pregnancy centers,” saying they do not provide all the options available to pregnant people, and can often provide misinformation or medically unsound advice.

O’Brien spoke highly of the centers as she introduced the legislation to create a nonrefundable tax credit for donations to such centers, saying the 175 centers in the state provide “hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care and material assistance to mothers and families in their communities.”

“As the pro-life movement makes the case for life, it is more important than ever to take concrete steps to support women and families facing an unexpected pregnancy,” O’Brien told the committee on Tuesday.

She cited the Virginia-based Charlotte Lozier Institute in saying the centers “save their communities millions of dollars annually.”

On its website, the Charlotte Lozier Institute calls itself the “research and education institute of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.”

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America donated to groups who stood against Ohio’s Issue 1, and states on its own website that it works “cooperatively to meet the pro-life movement’s need to maximize election outcomes and to enhance policy research and education for policymakers and the public.”

SB 159 comes just one week after 57% of Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment placing the right to abortion and other reproductive rights into the Ohio Constitution, according to unofficial results from the Ohio Secretary of State. Results will become official once they are certified by county boards of elections.

The bill also comes as Ohio House members of the “pro-life caucus” pledged to legislate away abortion rights, with state Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, putting forth a bill to take constitutional enforcement of the amendment away from the judicial branch in the state. Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens has thrown cold water on that idea, though Democratic lawmakers remain cautious.

In praising O’Brien’s bill, state Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, said more pregnancy resource centers are needed and he supports “getting more dollars to these folks.”

“In light of recent initiatives at the polls, I should say, I think we need to make sure that we are reaching out to women who are in these situations and figuring out how we can help them,” Cirino said.

Every county included in both O’Brien’s and Cirino’s districts – Ashtabula, Trumbull, Geauga, Lake and Cuyahoga counties – approved the constitutional amendment on Nov. 7.



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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.