The 2016 presidential cycle has, so far, seen Republican candidate after Republican candidate trying to out-right and out-extreme one another. With Donald Trump suggesting registering Muslims in a database and calling all Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and Marco Rubio refusing to admit that the issue of gay marriage is settled, despite the Supreme Court ruling otherwise, it is easy to lose sight of what one would normally call “extreme.” This makes candidate Governor John Kasich seem like the grownup in the room, the moderate who can unite the factions of the GOP and the country as a whole to win the White House in November. Buoyed by several newspaper editorial endorsements and fresh off his recent 2nd place finish in the New Hampshire primary, many voters may see him as the most viable candidate in the field. While Kasich is fairly moderate compared to the rest of the Republican presidential field, he is much too extreme for the majority of Americans. As Governor of Ohio, he has supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, shuttered abortion clinics, and gutted local school budgets, demonstrating that once he is in office, he puts his own extreme policies in place.
Over the last fiscal year, $3.7 million Ohio state funds were provided to Planned Parenthood, including Medicaid reimbursements. In the fall of 2015, both the Ohio House and Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood, instead opting to redirect its funds to clinics that do not provide abortions. The $3.7 million in funds are crucial to providing family planning and preventative services to women, especially low-income and minorities, who desperately need these services. Specifically, in Ohio, which has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, the loss of federal dollars would be a significant blow to Planned Parenthood, which provides an infant mortality prevention program to low-income families. Although Kasich has not publicly commented on the Ohio legislature’s efforts, he is widely expected to sign the bill if it comes to his desk. Given his past support for his legislature’s anti-abortion efforts, this should come as no surprise. Despite the recent political uproar over the heavily-edited videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress that have emboldened many state legislatures to introduce such defunding bills, a September 2015 poll conducted by USA Today/Suffolk University found that 65% of Americans believe that Planned Parenthood should continue to be funded by the federal government. This opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood is not new. In 2013, the Ohio legislature attempted to defund Planned Parenthood in its budget, and at that time, 52% of Ohio voters did not support the budget, specifically because of the defunding Planned Parenthood provision, according to a Public Policy Polling survey.
Since Kasich took office in 2011, he has enacted sixteen anti-abortion measures and, under his watch, Ohio’s sixteen abortion clinics have dwindled to a mere eight for the entire state. Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, has described him as “among the worst of anti-choice governors in this country’s history.” Among the restrictions imposed include:
- Requiring clinics to have emergency transfer agreements with hospitals, while simultaneously prohibiting public hospitals from entering into such agreements
- Strengthening the state health director’s authority to refuse abortion exceptions
- Requiring patients to receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to dissuade the woman from having an abortion
- Imposing a 24-hour waiting period before the operation
- Given consent from the parent of a minor before the operation
- Testing for a fetal heartbeat, which means that most women who undergo an abortion will have had an ultrasound, which is an attempt to further dissuade them from having the abortion
All of these measures are designed to restrict a woman’s access to abortion by employing tactics to dissuade her from having an abortion. As if all of this were not enough, in June 2015, the Ohio state senate passed a 20-week abortion ban. The combination of these measures has placed Ohio 8th in the nation for abortion restrictions (as of 2014). According to a Pew Research Center poll from September 2014, a majority of Americans (55%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. A Gallup poll conducted in May 2015 similarly found that a combined 80% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal “under any circumstances” or “only under certain circumstances (29% and 51%, respectively). Kasich’s decisions to restrict abortion access demonstrate that, even though he is moderate on some issues, he will pander to his party to appeal to the conservative base.
Kasich’s extremism isn’t just relegated to social issues. In his most recent state budget, he used his line-item veto 44 times to cut school funding by more than $84 million. Among the items that he cut were provisions that provided $78.3 million for the 2016-2017 school year to compensate for the money that was lost in the phase-out of the tangible personal property tax. Additionally, he eliminated the “‘guarantee’ that wealthier districts would receive no reduction in state aid,” which is estimated to have cost these districts $6 million to $9 million a year. During his tenure as governor, funding for traditional public schools has decreased by half a billion dollars, while funding for charter schools has increased by 27%. This is problematic, given that public schools in Ohio enroll 90% of students and the effectiveness of Ohio’s charter school system is questionable. Putting aside the disastrous effects this is bound to have on school districts in the state, Ohioans, and the country as a whole, do not support cutting funding to school districts at the state level. In a 2012 Gallup poll of attitudes toward public schools, the most cited obstacle (35%) for public schools in that individual’s community was lack of funding. Education for children, while a priority of the American public, does not seem to be a priority for Kasich.
Although Kasich may appear to be a moderate when compared to the rest of the remaining Republican field, there is no doubt that his record as Governor of Ohio tells a different story. By shuttering abortion clinics through restrictive regulations, taking away a woman’s right to choose, moving to defund Planned Parenthood several times, taking away much-needed health and preventive care to the low-income and minority individuals in the state and slashing public school funding, Kasich has demonstrated that he is in line with the rest of the Republican presidential field — and out of touch with the majority of Americans.
*The views expressed are my own and do not reflect those of Priorities USA Action.
Image source: Reuters/Brian Snyder.