Monday, April 3, 2017

Explainer: Planned Parenthood Defunding Votes

The AHCA, which included a Planned Parenthood defunding provision, tanked. Last week, a Planned Parenthood defunding measure passed the Senate and awaits the President's signature. Now, pro-life organizations are demanding another Planned Parenthood defunding vote. If you're not intimately familiar with these battles, your understandable reaction must be what on earth is going on?? Today's blog post is for you.

The first thing to understand is that taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is doled out via multiple government sources. These include Medicaid (which funds health care for the poor) and Title X (which is a grant program for contraception). In both cases, pro-life groups want the funds to be redirected from Planned Parenthood to community health centers. This is not an argument about the amount to be spent, but about where to spend it.

AHCA battle: The American Health Care Act, President Trump's measure to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, included a provision to redirect Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. That was one of the few provisions that was certain. Negotiations between the White House and various Congressional factions caused the remainder of the bill to change day-to-day. Maternity coverage was threatened at one point, which caused many pro-lifers consternation. Although eventually an amendment designated a pot of funding for maternity care, that couldn't save the AHCA, which was plagued with way more problems than I'm qualified to explain. No wonder only 17% of the American public supported it. Planned Parenthood tried to take credit for the AHCA tanking, but that seems unlikely in light of the...

Title X/HHS "parting gift" battle: States have some control over the distribution of Title X grant money, and over the last few years, many have decided to prioritize grants to their own health departments, community health centers, etc. rather than Planned Parenthood. Naturally Planned Parenthood responded with lawsuits (quite the sense of entitlement!), with the legal outcomes varying by jurisdiction.

Toward the very end of the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule that was widely derided as a parting gift to Planned Parenthood. In essence, it required an outcome in Planned Parenthood's favor for all of those lawsuits. The negative implications of the rule were numerous, and we outlined them in our official comment while the rule was still pending. Unfortunately, the rule was adopted. But because it was so new, Congress had the opportunity to reverse it under the Congressional Review Act. That's what the Senate did last week, in legislation spearheaded by Sen. Joni Earnst. Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Last week's vote to revoke the HHS parting gift basically puts everyone in the position they were in last September with respect to Title X. Still, it's a significant pro-life victory. It's also a very strong indication that we have the Senate votes to stop other taxpayer sources of Planned Parenthood funding, which brings me to...

What's next: On Friday, a coalition of 77 pro-life organizations (including Secular Pro-Life), led by the Susan B. Anthony List, sent a letter to members of Congress that states in part:
It is time for Congress to re-direct funds away from Planned Parenthood. Instead, fund community health centers, which outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities by at least 20 to one and offer a full range of primary health care, unlike Planned Parenthood.
You have a clear path to accomplish this goal. Pass a reconciliation bill that cuts off the largest funding streams for Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation language to do this already cleared procedural hurdles in the last Congress. Moreover, Congress has the votes to get it done now, and President Trump has promised his signature. Now it’s time to act on this opportunity.
The grassroots we represent expect you to stop funding this abortion giant. For years promises have been made, and the time has come to deliver. We urge you to pass a reconciliation bill that redirects Planned Parenthood funds to community health centers before the April recess. There are no excuses for inaction.
Reconciliation is a process available for budget-related bills that bypasses the Senate filibuster. (The AHCA vote, had it been attempted, would have been via reconciliation.) With a filibuster, 60 votes are needed to advance legislation. But without the filibuster, only a majority is needed -- and the Title X vote just demonstrated that we have a Senate majority in favor of redirecting Planned Parenthood funding to community health centers. 

The pro-life movement is aiming high. We want to defund Planned Parenthood at every level. Not just Title X. Not just in pro-life states. Not dependent on what happens to Obamacare. We're talking about every possible federal funding stream, redirected to the community health centers that deserve it. And we want it before Congress leaves for April recess, which in practical terms means this week.

Planned Parenthood's days of cruising on the taxpayer dime while killing helpless preborn children may soon be over.

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