Planned Parenthood’s Future? Depends Where You Live by Katherine Slye
Over the last few months we have heard a lot about the attempts of Congressional Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood. Last Friday Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote in the Senate that sent a bill to President Trump removing some current federal regulations and allowing states to withhold federal money from certain clinics, including Planned Parenthood.
Federal legislation is not the end of Planned Parenthood (yet?) and not the only action being taken in connection to the organization. Many states have taken steps to defund or protect Planned Parenthood in response to the federal legislation. The long held argument against any federal money going to Planned Parenthood is that the money for birth control, cancer screenings, and other services subsidize abortions.
Iowa’s bill would change the qualifications for a clinic receiving state aid and disqualify any clinic that facilitates or performs abortion including Planned Parenthood. Kentucky’s bill changes the way federal family planning funds are distributed, putting organizations like Planned Parenthood in last place to receive funds. This has already been signed into law by the Governor. It can go into effect if/when President Trump signs the bill Congress sent to him Friday because that legislation lifted the measure put in place by President Obama that prevented such tiered systems.
Other states already passed similar laws limiting the money clinics like Planned Parenthood could receive. In Missouri, there is a court case regarding new licensing requirements and hospital admission regulations placed on abortion clinics. Texas is struggling to demonstrate that services would not lapse if Planned Parenthood is defunded.
What might be the impact of all these defunding laws considering President Trump will likely sign related federal legislation?
Planned Parenthood will have to make up funding shortfalls. Money would probably have to come from private donations for states that have already passed legislation diverting funds from organizations that perform abortions. If the organization has to rely more, or even solely, on private money, they might have to divert more of their already scarce resources to outreach for such donations.
The fact that laws are different across state lines means that where you live can determine whether Planned Parenthood continues to be an option for healthcare. If the clinics are unable to make up the difference after the loss of federal funding, and often state money, some could be forced to close.
Not all news from the states is disheartening for supporters of Planned Parenthood. Maryland’s legislation would allocate state funds for Planned Parenthood, but some legislators, all Republicans, oppose it claiming they should not be forced to use tax dollars to fund something they see as morally wrong.
Nevada is exploring alternative funding options, and the Massachusetts governor has promised to use the state budget to fill any gaps in funding. Governor Cuomo of New York said at a Planned Parenthood rally he will propose a constitutional amendment that would protect abortion rights.
Relying solely on money from state budgets, many of which are renegotiated every year, could be equally as dangerous as relying on private donations. If the government, or even just one legislative chamber of a state, ever changed from pro-Planned Parenthood to anti-Planned Parenthood, then the organization would be in jeopardy of losing its state funding.
Ultimately, if Planned Parenthood loses the ability to receive any federal, and in some cases state funds, it could spell disaster for the organization. At the same time, future Congressional bills that seek to deny all federal funds for Planned Parenthood could be filibustered by the Democrats, assuming the filibuster remains in place for legislation.
This is one of those “wait and see” moments in politics as we wait to see first if President Trump signs the bill Congress sent him, and see what other actions will be taken.
Katherine Slye, M.A. is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University at Albany working on her dissertation, examining the lobbying strategies of abortion interest groups, How Choice is Made in the Choice Debate.