If you watched the live feed from the Senate floor on Thursday, you might have come away afraid that life as we know it is about to come to an end. Democratic senators spent too many hours to count talking about how women’s access to health care would be virtually non-existent if a rule enacted two days before President Obama left office was repealed.
Eventually, after two-tie-breaking votes by Vice President Mike Pence, the Senate voted to repeal the regulation. Miraculously, the Earth is still spinning.
Obama’s 11th hour gift to his friends at Planned Parenthood dealt with how states can spend their Title X funding. Title X is a federal program that provides funding to health-care centers to provide contraception and other family planning services, excluding abortion. Obama’s rule declared that states could not bar Title X funds from going to groups that perform abortion. We all know who he meant.
What the Senate and VP Pence did was to return to the states the discretion they should have to decide which health care providers will get their allotment of federal money and which won’t. Basically, yesterday’s action restored business as usual along a mostly party line vote – Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Olympia Snowe of Maine broke ranks.
But even if every state decided to withhold Title X funding from Planned Parenthood – which would never happen in abortion-friendly states like California, New York and others – Planned Parenthood would still receive some $400 million in Medicaid reimbursements.
This is why we need Congress to continue working to defund Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Diane Black, a Republican from Tennessee, introduced a bill that would cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood and its affiliates for one year unless they certify that they do not provide abortion. The bill has 139 co-sponsors so it’s time to get it out of the Energy and Commerce Committee and onto the House floor for a vote.
Alternatively, Congress could use a budget reconciliation bill to cut off Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood and redirect that money to federally qualified community health centers, which do not provide abortion and outnumber Planned Parenthood by a margin of 20 to 1. This is the route House Speaker Paul Ryan favors.
Pro-life leaders, including myself and Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, have sent a letter to Congress urging swift action on defunding the abortion giant. In it, we tell our elected representatives:
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.
Planned Parenthood was in the news this week for something other than its funding situation. On the same day the state of California announced it was filing 15 felony charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress, the center released another undercover video that featured an interview with an Arizona abortionist who cut her teeth while working for Planned Parenthood. In it we learn some interesting facts, including that it’s quite an upper-body workout to dismember a living baby in the womb, and that the protocol for providing care to an infant born alive after abortion changes depending on who’s in the room.
Defunding Planned Parenthood will not shut it down – it has too much support in Hollywood and the media for that — but a loss of $500 million a year will sting. More importantly, it will send a message that this organization, that promotes teen sexuality, and deviant sexuality; that lies about the non-abortion services it provides, and that has shown itself willing to cover up for sexual traffickers and pedophiles, does not deserve our hard-earned tax dollars.
Janet A. Morana is executive director of Priests for Life.