Quick Questions: Planned Parenthood Funding

There are some questions around Planned Parenthood and its funding that I think would be worth expounding on for more general clarity on this controversial but commonly misunderstood topic.

Does the federal government fund Planned Parenthood?

There is no line in the federal budget that reads: Planned Parenthood gets $500 million…but the answer is technically yes. I’ll explain: The federal government reimburses states for payments to Planned Parenthood for services provided for Medicaid and Title X recipients. Those two federal programs primarily target low-income Americans who need healthcare services. These lower income Americans make up about 78% of Planned Parenthood’s patient base. Federal reimbursement covers 90% of the cost, and states fill in the rest.

So how could the federal government stop that money?

In the newly released Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act, named the American Health Care Act (real original), there is a provision that would prohibit federal funds from being available to states for payments to family planning or health centers that offer abortion services for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger of death for one year. Here is the text straight from the proposed bill if you’re a lover of legal wording:

Screenshot 2017-03-07 at 12.23.48 PMScreenshot 2017-03-07 at 12.23.55 PMScreenshot 2017-03-07 at 12.24.00 PM

That means that low-income women who use either Medicaid or Title X will not be able to go to Planned Parenthood for any services because their plans won’t be accepted.That is basically restricting access to healthcare for lower income people. That’s a hell of a thing to do in a healthcare bill.

If the federal government doesn’t want to fund abortion, why don’t they pass an individual law about that?

The Hyde Amendment does exactly that and has been on the books since 1976; three years after the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade. The argument about the ineffectiveness of Hyde is that although the law prohibits federal money funding abortion directly, it does nothing to address fungibility of said money.

What the heck is fungibility?

It’s the idea that goods or commodities (in this case money) are able to replace or be replaced by another identical item. Since Planned Parenthood is receiving money from the federal government and using it for non-abortion services, that by nature frees up other money to be used on abortion. Some pro-life students made a quick and easy to understand video on the concept found here. This is a Paul Ryan talking point. That you can’t give Planned Parenthood any money because “money is fungible, and it effectively floats [around] these organizations.” The problem is we don’t see this idea being applied consistently around any other type of federal grant programs. It’s a convenient economic argument specific to anti-abortion advocates.

What about Trump’s offer to continue allowing money for Planned Parenthood as long as it stops abortion services?

This is an incredibly underhanded thing for the President to suggest for a couple reasons. First, it should be noted that this was floated out informally and never was officially proposed. This informal proposal makes it look like President Trump has tried to offer Planned Parenthood an avenue to continue providing healthcare services by simply not offering abortion services. If they refuse (which they have already), then they look like the party that is unwilling to negotiate. Secondly, the offer puts Planned Parenthood in the unenviable position of defending abortion, rather than touting all their other services.

Planned Parenthood is one of the largest provider of abortion services in the United States according to their own statistics and by eliminating those services, anti-abortion advocates are trying to make it increasingly more difficult for women to have legal, medially-safe abortions. While it is still technically protected by law, reducing access makes practically impossible. If you live in an area of the country where there aren’t facilities that offer abortion and you don’t have the means to travel, you are forced into decisions others don’t have to make.

Let me be clear, blocking federal reimbursements for Planned Parenthood would be another step closer to making abortion illegal in the United States.

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