Funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s health services in general appears to be in the crosshairs this week as Republicans and Democrats try to resolve budget differences. Planned Parenthood provides a variety of women’s health services, including cancer screenings and STD testing, at over 800 locations nationwide. 75 percent of Planned Parenthood clients live at or near the poverty line, and all federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives goes to these health services.
Planned Parenthood also offers abortion services, but no federal funds go to these services. However, Republicans are still attempting to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood because they believe that those funds free up private funds Planned Parenthood receives for abortion services. The GOP has placed a number of “riders” blocking federal funds from specific services or organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, into current budget proposals. As recently as this morning, Republican Senator John Kyl insisted that any budget must include provisions defunding Planned Parenthood to pass. While Republicans claim that the major disagreement is about spending levels, their focus on how funds are spent rather than the size of the budget suggests otherwise.
This is even more evident in the fact that Republicans are pushing alternative structures for distributing spending. This is not about a budget, it is not about how much money is spent. This is about where the money is spent, and whether that money goes to services or caues that run counter to the GOP political agenda.
One such alternative is to change the way Title X funding is structured, so that instead of being dispersed directly to health organizations, it would be distributed to states to allow them to distribute the funds themselves. Democrats fear that such a program would allow Republican governors to reject federal funding in their state not only for Planned Parenthood, but for all organizations dedicated to women’s health services. Given the way GOP governors have rejected federal funds for their states to make political statements on other issues, this is not an unfounded concern. And with the clock ticking toward a midnight deadline tonight, the GOP is offering little time to have a serious debate over these legitimate concerns.