Thursday, October 23, 1997
Is Bedinghaus trying
to make us sick?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

That fabulous fellow who brought you the remarkable exploding football stadium has turned his attention to women's health. Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus could now make it possible for poor women to have babies they do not want, cervical cancer they do not want and, eventually, abortions they do not want.

And he's using your money for leverage. As usual.

I suppose once you find that you can throw around a few hundred million dollars of public money for private enterprise, it's only a tiny leap to decide to use public money to support your private idea of morality. Or, worse, your ambitions to continue in public office.

Political football

Mr. Bedinghaus, who says he is opposed to abortion, has announced his intention to withhold $100,000 in state money used to pay for Pap smears, breast examinations and preventive birth control at a Springdale clinic. Abortions are not performed there and never have been.

But the clinic is operated by Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. The county commissioner, who says ''anything that has to do with abortion is something I choose not to support,'' has chosen instead to try to withdraw money from a clinic that provides family planning services.

The Springdale center and another in Green Township are the only Hamilton County clinics outside the city of Cincinnati serving low-income women, according to Barbara Rinto, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood.

It's a tough issue, abortion. Although this procedure is legal, lots of Americans have trouble with it philosophically. Morally. And viscerally, especially viscerally. But whatever our feelings about abortion, most of us apparently believe in family planning. Otherwise, why are there so many small families?

And we know what causes abortions. Unwanted pregnancies.

Mr. Bedinghaus, who found himself unable to stand up to the demands of Mike Brown, has discovered an opponent that he might be able to beat: Poor women in need of health care.

They don't make many political contributions. Some of them are too young to vote. And they can't take their teams to Cleveland.

Fully funded locker rooms

This guy who thinks nothing is too fine or luxurious for somebody who can afford a season ticket and who is willing to buy new lockers for grown men who can throw a baseball, draws the line at $100,000 in state money for women's health services.

The clinic last year logged 2,579 patient visits for medical services, including gynecological exams, preventive birth control, Pap tests, HIV testing and midlife gynecological care. For poor women. I guess I said that already.

And, by the way, Mr. Bedinghaus is willing to jeopardize $1 million in state money for other agencies, including Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital, Lincoln Heights Healthcare Connection and the Baby's Milk Fund to make his point.

Do you have the feeling that maybe the commissioner is hoping you'll be so interested in his stance on Planned Parenthood that you'll forget his stance on spending your money on sports stadiums? Perhaps he was simply asleep at the switch when he joined the other commissioners Oct. 1 in approving Planned Parenthood's spending of the grant money.

Or maybe he just thought nobody would notice. And somebody did. Any way you look at it, he is not behaving like a man with moral conviction. He is behaving like a politician. Anti-abortion forces looking for a true hero should keep taking applications.

We were silly enough - and I freely confess that I qualify to wear one of those ''Shoot me. I voted for the Stadium Tax'' T-shirts - to trust this man with our money. Surely we will not be foolish enough to trust him with our health.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.