Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) endorsed Medicaid expansion in February without input from its local affiliates, many of whom are against expanding Medicaid. Republican Governor John Kasich has nonetheless touted ORTL’s endorsement as proof his push for billions in new entitlement spending has conservative support.
“ORTL does NOT confer with their affiliates when they make a decision to take any action,” Cleveland Right to Life President Molly Smith explained to Media Trackers. “They are completely autonomous from us.”
Cleveland Right to Life, the largest ORTL affiliate, opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Medicaid expansion. Other pro-life groups across the state are either opposed to the PPACA Medicaid expansion or have taken no position on the issue.
|FOR Medicaid expansion||AGAINST Medicaid expansion||No position|
Media Trackers contacted several of Ohio’s other large Right to Life groups but did not receive responses in time for publication.
“It is imperative that ALL of us, ALL OF US, call every Republican in the House and demand that they stand firm against the Expansion of Medicaid or ANY implementation of ObamaCare in ANY FORM,” Cleveland Right to Life wrote in a March 20 release.
“ORTL does some good things, but is very tied to the Ohio Republican Party,” Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati Executive Director Paula Westwood told Media Trackers. “I was astounded to learn that they were supporting Medicaid expansion.”
Smith described it as “disingenuous” for ORTL to list the group’s “chapters” on press releases for issues such as Medicaid expansion, because, “These ‘chapters’ firstly are NOT chapters – and secondly the affiliates had NO voice in the decision making.”
“The only way this expansion will work is to increase taxes on an already strained tax base thus forcing more and more people into poverty over the long term,” Smith added. “History shows that as poverty increases so too does the number of abortions as the abortion industry feeds on the plight of the poor.”
“Serious problems with the federal government’s proposed Medicaid expansion program, from many perspectives, raise caution, including sanctity of human life concerns. The Medicaid system needs reform not expansion to best serve the underprivileged,” Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, which is not an ORTL affiliate, wrote on April 10.
“Greater Toledo Right to Life is joining Cleveland, Cincinnati, Lake County, and a host of other affiliate Right to Life groups across Ohio in our opposition to Governor Kasich[‘s] plan to expand Medicaid in Ohio,” the Toledo-based group announced on June 5.
Beth Vanderkooi, executive director of Greater Columbus Right to Life, told Media Trackers the group’s board “has not weighed in to endorse or oppose the Medicaid expansion or, indeed, any specific piece of legislation.”
“We have not taken a position on the Medicaid expansion not because we don’t want to, but because that isn’t our area of expertise,” Right to Life of Northeast Ohio Executive Director Denise Leipold told Media Trackers.
Press coverage of the ORTL endorsement has given the false impression a majority of the Columbus organization’s affiliate groups support the PPACA Medicaid expansion. For instance, Associated Press reporter Julie Carr Smyth wrote on February 12 that Medicaid expansion had been endorsed by “the state’s largest and oldest anti-abortion group.”
“The conservative Ohio Right to Life intends to lobby those lawmakers to approve the expansion and plans to specifically cite the compassion issue,” Robert Higgs at the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote on February 22.
Essentially serving as a token “conservative” backer of Medicaid expansion, ORTL has been treated as reflective of Ohio’s pro-life movement in general even though a number of Right to Life groups have vocally opposed the policy for months.
Another fact excluded from media reports noting the ORTL endorsement: Gov. Kasich appointed ORTL President Mike Gonidakis to a 5-year term on the State Medical Board several months before ORTL backed Kasich in his fight to implement a central component of President Obama’s unpopular 2010 health law.