A Republican-backed bill to cut federal funding of Planned Parenthood was passed by the House of Representatives last month and is currently up for debate in the Senate.
The bill, also known as the Pence Amendment, is part of a larger federal spending plan and would eliminate the approximately $360 million Planned Parenthood reportedly receives per year from the federal government through the Title X family planning program. It was approved by a 240-185 vote, with 230 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting in favor of the amendment.
Davis College Republicans chairman Mark Bahl described the move as a response to Planned Parenthood’s abortion services as well as a reflection of many Republicans’ ideological opposition to government-funded health care.
“Most Republicans I know are pretty pro-life, and view life as starting at conception, so then view federal funding to Planned Parenthood as money going to subsidize murder,” Bahl said in an e-mail interview. “Others who are pro-choice Republicans respect the decision of the woman, but feel that she should pay for it herself.”
The bill immediately sparked outrage among Planned Parenthood supporters and pro-choice activists, who claim that many women will lose access to the other reproductive health care procedures the organization provides.
According to the 2008-09 Planned Parenthood Annual Report, 3 million people visited over 800 health centers nationwide that year. Thirty-six percent received contraception, 31 percent were tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections, 17 percent participated in cancer screenings and prevention and 3 percent received abortion services.
Currently, Planned Parenthood’s federal funds are not allowed to be used to provide abortion services.
ASUCD Senator Allison Tanner, whose sister works at a Planned Parenthood in San Diego, said she opposes the bill because Planned Parenthood provides health care services to many women who would not otherwise be able to afford it. Taking away its federal funding may limit the effectiveness of the organization as a safe place for all women to visit.
“It’s a caring environment. No matter what the result is you will get counseling on what the next steps should be. I think that’s what’s important,” Tanner said. “There’s a culture there that supports women and we really need to be able to maintain those spaces.”
Many critics of the bill argue that the move is purely political, aimed at weakening organizations that support abortion in any way. UC Davis School of Law professor Rex Perschbacher said the bill is one of many attempts by conservatives to weaken women’s access to abortion.
“[The bill] can’t change the law [which legalizes abortion], but eventually if it drives providers away and defunds groups that are supportive of abortions like Planned Parenthood, it’ll certainly limit the opportunities,” Perschbacher said.
By defunding Planned Parenthood, Republicans have demonstrated their goal of attacking key constituencies who often don’t vote Republican, said UC Davis School of Law professor emerita Martha West. For West, the bill represents a long history of Republican disinterest in women’s issues.
“Even though they said it’s just about abortion, it’s not just about abortion. It’s about who gets to control women’s bodies and how much control women themselves have over their own bodies,” West said.
Still, Bahl claimed the bill represents many Republicans’ objection to government-funded health care.
“For many Republicans that view health care services as an individual responsibility, even if Planned Parenthood was not actually performing abortions using federal money, many Republicans are not in favor of having their tax dollars being spent to pay for other people’s health services in the first place,” Bahl said. “Regardless of if it is Planned Parenthood or another institution, the principle remains the same.”
Tanner urged Planned Parenthood supporters to call their senators and encourage them to vote against the bill. Women’s health may be seriously affected if the bill is passed, she said.
“[Planned Parenthood] will have state funding, but they’ll have significantly less funding which means they’ll have significantly less ability to serve,” Tanner said. “It’s already overcrowded and there’s already a large number of people that are trying to get services from Planned Parenthood.”
Neither West nor Perschbacher believed that the bill will be approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate or President Obama, who is pro-choice. The bill is currently listed as active legislation on the Senate website, though no vote date has been set.
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.