Legislation revokes funding of abortion-providing entities, funds community health centers

Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood heated up on March 6 with the unveiling of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), legislation proposed by Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace some portions of the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010. The new legislation, which passed the Budget Committee on March 16, has three pro-life provisions, including a portion effectively revoking approximately 490 million dollars in federal funding for Planned Parenthood and redirecting much of those funds to other community health centers.

According to its annual report from the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the most recent report available, Planned Parenthood received over 550 million dollars in funding from the federal government primarily through Medicaid reimbursements. In the same period, the organization performed 323,999 abortions, making it the largest provider of abortions in the United States. The organization also provides birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing, and a few other health services at low or no cost.

The issue of taxpayer funding for abortion-providing organizations is a highly controversial one and played a significant role in the presidential election, with now President Trump promising to defund Planned Parenthood. According to a poll conducted by inc./WomenTrend in November of 2016, 56 percent of voters in 2018 Senate battleground states support defunding the organization. The poll, which surveyed 1650 people, was conducted in Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  

The provision of the AHCA ending most of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding is a one-year ban on Medicaid payments and other block grants to certain “prohibited entities.” In the legislation, such entities are defined as nonprofit abortion providers which receive over 350 million dollars in federal taxpayer funding annually. In place of funding Planned Parenthood, the ACHA would direct 422 million dollars to community health centers across the nation that do not provide abortion.

Early this month, President Trump made an informal pitch to Planned Parenthood, saying he would allow it to keep its federal funding if it discontinued its abortion services. The organization’s president, Cecile Richards, responded on twitter calling abortion a “necessary service that’s as vital to our mission as birth control or cancer screenings.”

Two additional provisions in the bill also address abortion in healthcare. One bars small businesses from receiving expense credits for health insurance plans which cover abortion. The other requires insurance plans not to provide abortion coverage in order to be deemed “Qualified Health Plans,” or insurance plans which can be purchased using federal tax credits.  

The pro-life provisions have gained support from a number of pro-life groups such as National Right to Life, which sent a letter to congress expressing support of the legislation and urging those in congress to vote yes on the bill’s passage. Additionally, the Susan B. Anthony List tweeted, “We’re glad to see #ProLife Hyde protections & redirecting PP funds in @GOP health care bill. These are essential for pro-life support #AHCA,” referencing the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision barring certain government funds from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or the endangerment of a mother’s life.   

On campus, students’ feelings towards the pro-life provisions were mixed. Clare McKinney, a junior at Saint Mary’s College, shared her thoughts with the Rover, saying, “Defunding Planned Parenthood is a necessity. We’re funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to an organization that is riddled by scandal. It’s by definition not a non-profit by any means given the 700 million [dollars] they have profited under CEO Cecile Richards.”

Natasha Reifenberg, a senior, opposed the provision defunding Planned Parenthood, saying, “In defunding Planned Parenthood and preventing women from accessing affordable contraceptives, there is no doubt we will see a rise in recourse to abortion, safe and unsafe. In treating women’s essential reproductive health care like a political football, there is no doubt the poorest and most vulnerable women will be the first to suffer … four out of five of those who benefit [from Planned Parenthood] are at or below 150% of the poverty line.”

The legislation is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives today.

Matt Connell is a sophomore studying marketing and constitutional studies. He is very excited for the new season of the Amazing Race to premiere this week. If you want to watch the first episode with him, let him know at mconnel6@nd.edu.