Students Confront Kasich On Defunding Planned Parenthood

Students with the GMU College Democrats protest John Kasich outside of his town hall event at the university on Monday. CREDIT: EMILY ATKIN

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA — Last week, Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich called single women with children “the real heroes” in American society. He promised, if elected president, to declare an “all out war” on violence against women. He remarked on the importance of creating safe spaces where women feel empowered to speak out about alleged sexual assaults.

And at a town hall event in Virginia on Monday, Kasich said that his support for women was mutual. It went all the way back to 1978, he said, when women “left their kitchens” to go out and “put yard signs up” to support his election to the Ohio state Senate. “Now you call homes and everybody’s out working,” he said. “But at that time, early days, it was an army of women that really helped me get elected to the state Senate.”

I’ll come to support you, but I won’t be coming out of the kitchen.

But not every woman at Kasich’s town hall at George Mason University (GMU) on Monday seemed to agree with that message. One woman not only took issue with his “kitchen” remark — but also with his signing, just one day before, a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in Ohio.

“First off, I want to say about your comment earlier about the women came out of the kitchen to support you, I’ll come to support you, but I won’t be coming out of the kitchen,” the woman — a nursing student — began, to laughs from the audience.

“As a future nurse, I recognize that primary care and prevention is the most cost-effective health care for our nation,” she continued. “But we are also facing an STD epidemic. Planned Parenthood’s largest percentage of services are toward STD treatment and prevention. Can you please tell me the economic and public health benefit of defunding an organization that has treated over 4 million people seeking STD services this last year?”

The bill Kasich signed on Sunday was introduced after an anti-abortion organization released sting videos claiming Planned Parenthood was selling “aborted baby parts.” Though a grand jury recently cleared Planned Parenthood of any unlawful acts, the lawmakers who authored the legislation used the videos as the main evidence for defunding the organization.

On Monday, Kasich also appeared to use the videos as reason for defunding the organization, saying Planned Parenthood had “discredited itself” and that other women’s health centers would be funded instead.

“We consider women’s health to be critical,” he said, “but you don’t have to be captive towards delivering it through an organization that frankly is largely discredited.”

Joe Russell, 20, protests John Kasich outside of his event at George Mason University in Virginia on Monday. CREDIT: Emily Atkin

The nursing student was not the only attendee disagree with Kasich’s rhetoric surrounding the women’s health organization. Outside, a small group of students with the GMU College Democrats held up signs in protest of Kasich’s stance on abortion. “As governor of Ohio, Kasich restricted access to abortion and Planned Parenthood,” one sign read. “Fun facts about John Kasich: YESTERDAY he signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood,” read another.

Lauren Ammerman, 19, was holding the sign calling out Kasich for restricting abortion access, and told ThinkProgress that that was the main reason she was protesting the event.

“I believe health care should be a right for everyone, instead of a privilege, no matter what your income is,” she said, noting that Planned Parenthood provides subsidized birth control and other services for low-income women.

Planned Parenthood also took a swipe at Kasich on Sunday, shortly after he signed the bill defunding the organization in Ohio — taking specific aim at his purported support for women.

“If single mothers raising children ‘are the real heroes in America,’” Planned Parenthood tweeted, “why do you cut programs that would help them, John Kasich?”