By Kate Clark
When it comes to funding, Planned Parenthood may have won the recent battle in Congress, but the war is far from over. The agency has been under fire since a pro-life activist group released videos of employees negotiating fetal tissue sales in July. In August and September, Congress gave the nation a scare as Republicans threatened to shutdown the government and refused to vote for any budget that continued Planned Parenthood’s funding. Republicans conceded before the deadline, and federal funding to Planned Parenthood continued.
Planned Parenthood receives federal funding from both Medicaid, allocated from the states, and Title X, a federal program for comprehensive family planning and preventative health services for low-income Americans. Nevertheless, there are considerable regulations that ensure federal funds do not directly fund abortions. The Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act(s) from each of the past several years have prohibited the use of Title X for abortions and for financing clinics that direct clients to abortion in their family planning. Furthermore, the Hyde Amendment prohibits Medicaid spending from going to abortions, except for in the case of rape, incest, or life-threatening danger to the mother.
Private donors supply most of the funding for the agency’s abortions services, which only account for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. Federal funding comprises 41 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue, including $528.4 million in 2014. According to the Congressional Budget Office, cutting Planned Parenthood’s funding on a federal level would shave $520 million off the federal budget in the short run. However, the reduction in women’s health services and an increase in unplanned pregnancies would cost the nation $650 million over the next decade, as many of these babies would belong to low-income families, leading to an increase in Medicaid spending for states.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood announced that they would no longer accept reimbursements for fetal tissue donations. Before the summer’s video controversy, only about half a dozen Planned Parenthood affiliates operated fetal tissue donation programs, a number which has shrunk to only two affiliates in the video’s aftermath: one in Washington and one in California. This move seemed like a victory for conservatives everywhere, but Planned Parenthood representatives did not seem shaken — a very small amount of money overall comes from these fees.
However, conservatives in six states have found more success in defunding Planned Parenthood. Within the past few months, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Arkansas, Utah, Alabama, and most recently, Texas and Ohio, have attempted to end Medicaid funding given to Planned Parenthood. The first four have followed the same formula: the state government votes to terminate their Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood sues, and a federal district judge either blocks the immediate defunding while making a longer-term decision, or overturns the decision as a whole. In the past week, both the Texas and Ohio state governments passed bills cutting the Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood within their states. There has been no challenge to either state’s decision yet, but Planned Parenthood has expressed that it will retaliate.
So what does this say about the future of Planned Parenthood funding? We can’t be sure. Other conservative states could follow suit, but the limited success in defunding Planned Parenthood may deter other states from doing so. Instead, results could spark these states to find a more effective way to defund the organization.
What we can be sure of is this is federalism, in it purest form, at work. When the federal government does not act the way the states would desire in a power outside what is enumerated in the Constitution, the states take matters into their own hands.
Conservatives will not let Planned Parenthood continue operating without a fight, and with good reason. Although the organization reportedly does not use federal funds for abortions, it widely advertises abortions, even boasting the repeal of anti-abortion laws in its 2014 annual report. Many conservatives, as a matter of principle, cannot support the federal funding of Planned Parenthood because they cannot support abortion itself. We will have to wait and see whether they are successful in their continued attempts to kill the program.
Kate Clark is a 2017 MPP candidate at the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She serves as a Staff Writer for the Third Rail blog.