A bill that would provide tax exemptions for anti-abortion pregnancy resource centers in Ohio, which provide non-abortive pregnancy care and do not refer women for abortions, advanced in the committee process Tuesday.
The legislation, Substitute House Bill 297, would provide a 50 percent tax credit up to $1,000 for any person living in Ohio who donates to an Ohio-based pregnancy resource center. The bill advanced through the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee on a party-line vote and has been favorably reported to the House Rules and Reference Committee.
Vivian Koob, who testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the pregnancy resource center Elizabeth’s New Life Center, said that these centers serve at-risk populations and that all of their clients are on Medicaid. She said that most of their clients are low-income women, many of whom have low education and have dropped out of school.
The centers provide prenatal care early in pregnancy and provide emergency diapers, wipes and formula. Women can also earn credits by going to trainings and appointments that can be used to purchase cribs and other supplies from the center. However, the center will not refer a woman for an abortion or provide an abortion because the center is grounded in the belief of protecting human dignity from the point of conception, according to Koob.
Although many of these centers have been accused of misleading pregnant women about the effects of abortion, Koob said that the center has 28 credentialed medical professionals on staff who review all of its material before it is given to the women.
The committee also heard opponent testimony from Amelia Stower, who works at Capital Care of Toledo Ohio, which is the city’s only abortion clinic. She said that these centers are dangerous and accused them of deceiving patients about the effects of abortion and instead providing religious-based lectures.
Stower said that these centers will often mention health risks of abortion without explaining their low probability. She also said they mislead women by telling them that there are potential risks of breast cancer and infertility caused by an abortion. She said that people who work with the centers also stand outside of their abortion clinic and hand out misleading information intended to shame women into not receiving an abortion.
The bill is being sponsored by two Republicans, Rep. Timothy Ginter, R-Salem, and Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum. Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans and the governor is a Republican.
The committee unanimously advanced two other less controversial bills: H.B. 222, which creates a tax credit for businesses to train commercial vehicle operators, and H.B. 196, which exempts the sales tax for gyms that are operated by a nonprofit.
Two representatives also introduced bipartisan legislation that would exempt textbooks from the state’s sales tax. This legislation, H.B. 410, was introduced by Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, and Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg. In his testimony, Antani said that students usually spend about $800 every year on textbooks; a seven percent sales tax, he said, would save them a good amount of money and relieve a barrier for education.