Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country. Although the organization also provides sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information to 2.7 million women (and men) annually through its approximately 700 health centers throughout the United States, Planned Parenthood is generally criticized by Republicans — the vast majority of whom are pro-life — only because it performs abortions.
Most recently, after the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood’s medical director supposedly talking about selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal, Republicans have been calling for Congress to cease funding Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has received federal funding since 1970 through Medicare and the Title X Family Planning Program administered within the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) by the Office of Family Planning (OFP) — all part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Planned Parenthood’s 2012-2013 annual report, the organization received $540.6 million (about 45 percent of its revenue) in taxpayer-funded government health-services grants during its fiscal year ending on June 30, 2013.
By law, Planned Parenthood cannot use the money it receives from the federal government for elective abortions because Title X funds “may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning” and Medicaid funding “is restricted by the Hyde Amendment to only abortion cases involving rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.” However, as critics of Planned Parenthood have pointed out, the organization’s funds are fungible, and money allocated to other medical services frees up funds to provide abortions.
Bills to defund Planned Parenthood were introduced in Congress before it recessed for its summer vacation.
The Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 (H.R.3134) was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 21. It would prohibit “for a one-year period, the availability of federal funds for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any of its affiliates or clinics, unless they certify that the affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion during such period.” The bill has not been voted on yet.
A bill (S.1881) to “prohibit Federal funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America” was introduced in the Senate on July 28. On August 3, Senate Democrats refused to allow Republicans to bring the bill to the floor for debate. Sixty votes were needed to invoke cloture and vote on the bill, but the measure failed by a vote of 53-46. Although there are 52 Republicans in the Senate, one did not vote, two Democrats voted with the Republicans, and the Republican majority leader voted against the bill so he could bring it back up later for a revote.
But even if a bill to defund Planned Parenthood passed both Houses of Congress, the White House has said that Barack Obama would veto it. And Republicans will never get the two-thirds vote they need to override a presidential veto. The last time that Republicans in Congress tried to defund Planned Parenthood, back in 2011, Obama released a video message to supporters of Planned Parenthood’s Political Action Committee pledging to fight efforts in Congress to defund the organization.
Abortion is an emotionally charged issue. But the real issue here has everything to do with principle and nothing to do with abortion, fetal tissue, medical research, or whether someone is pro-life or pro-choice. The Republican outrage over Planned Parenthood’s practices and its attempt to defund the organization clearly show how utterly devoid they are of the very principles they claim to stand for. Things such as the Constitution, limited government, fiscal conservatism, and free enterprise.
First of all, as chronicled in a recent Salon exposé, “The secret Republican love affair with Planned Parenthood: A history,” it was “Republican activists who helped establish Planned Parenthood and the Republican Party that got federal funding for the organization in the first place.” Sen. Prescott Bush was a leading fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. In 1967, his son, future president George H.W. Bush, “secured the first federal funding for birth control, and by extension Planned Parenthood, as the decision was made to provide grants to existing providers rather than create a public network of birth control clinics.” Richard Nixon was also a backer of federally funded family planning when he was president. And throughout the 1970s and 1980s, “support for Planned Parenthood funding was bipartisan.”
Second, during the so-called Republican Revolution in the 1990s, when Republicans held control of both Houses of Congress for the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, they continued to fund Planned Parenthood. When the Republicans had complete control of both Houses of Congress and the White House for more than four years when George W. Bush was the president, funding not only for Planned Parenthood, but also for all other family-planning clinics and programs, could have easily been ended. But like funding for the welfare state, funding for Planned Parenthood continued even under a Republican majority.
Third, Republicans seem to be more upset about what Planned Parenthood does with aborted fetuses than the abortions themselves that they maintain are the murder of unborn children.
And fourth, it turns out that the recent House bill to defund Planned Parenthood may not actually defund Planned Parenthood at all. The relevant section of the bill (H.R.3134), “SEC. 2. Moratorium on Federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.,” reads as follows:
(a) In general. — For the one-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, subject to subsection (b), no funds authorized or appropriated by Federal law may be made available for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any affiliate or clinic of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., unless such entities certify that Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion during such period.
(b) Exception. — Subsection (a) shall not apply to an abortion —
(1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or
(2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
It is only federal funding of elective abortions that Republicans are concerned about, and not federal funding of family-planning clinics and programs. That has always been the case.
When House Republicans voted in favor of an amendment (H.AMDT.95) to a continuing resolution (H.R.1) to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011 after secret videos showed “Planned Parenthood employees advising actors posing as pimps on information on how to get abortions, STD testing, and birth control for their underage prostitutes,” they were trying to stop federal funding of abortion only through federal support for Planned Parenthood, not funding for family-planning clinics and programs in general. Sen. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the author of the amendment, even stated, “Eliminating Title X funding has never been my goal. I support the important work of Title X clinics across the country.”
Republicans are perfectly okay with taking money from American taxpayers and spending it on family-planning clinics and programs as long as abortions are not performed. Just as they are perfectly okay with taking money from American taxpayers and spending it on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as long as NPR doesn’t report the news with too much of a liberal bias. Just as they are perfectly okay with taking money from American taxpayers and spending it on the National Endowment for the Arts as long as it doesn’t fund pornographic art. Just as they are perfectly okay with taking money from American taxpayers and spending it on research grants as long as the grants are not for something too outrageous. Just as they are perfectly okay with taking money from American taxpayers and spending it on anything as long as they don’t consider it to be immoral — as if taking money from American taxpayers and spending it on unconstitutional programs or redistributing it to other Americans is not in and of itself immoral.
The only limited government envisioned by Republicans is a government limited to one controlled by Republicans.