August 7, 2015 — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Thursday said the state would cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, making it the third state to defund the organization following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, CNN reports (Scott, CNN, 8/6).
The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization.
The New Hampshire Executive Council earlier this week voted to defund Planned Parenthood centers in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/6). Similarly, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has ended a state contract under which Planned Parenthood received state Medicaid funds (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).
Alabama Funding Details
Bentley's office on Thursday announced that the Alabama Medicaid Agency plans to terminate its provider contract with Planned Parenthood Southeast, giving a 15-day notice. PPS will have a 60-day timeframe to appeal the decision (CNN, 8/6).
According to Alabama Medicaid Agency records, PPS has received less than $5,000 in state funding over the past two years. Specifically, Medicaid allocated $3,417.58 in the current fiscal year to PPS to cover office visits, contraceptive implants and birth control shots, while it paid $933.79 in 2014 for an office visit, an IUD insertion and injections. According to AP/Sacramento Bee, the funding was not used for abortion services.
PPS President and CEO Staci Fox said, "We are disappointed that Gov. Bentley has been distracted by a deceptive attack against our organization instead of staying focused on what really matters to women in Alabama. What Alabamians need is more access to health care, not less."
Fox added that PPS provides cancer screenings, contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and well-woman exams, noting, "Because of our health centers, low-income, uninsured women and families were able to access high-quality affordable health care through the safety net provided by Medicaid funding" (Chandler, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/6). According to Fox, the decision to defund Planned Parenthood will prevent thousands of low-income and uninsured men and women from accessing necessary health care services.
However, Fox also noted, "The courts have been clear that the federal law prohibits states from excluding abortion providers from Medicaid." She added, "Planned Parenthood's doors remain open and we will continue to provide high-quality, compassionate care to the women and men who rely on us" (CNN, 8/6).
McConnell: Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood Unlikely
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday said conservative attempts to force a government shutdown over efforts to defund Planned Parenthood likely will be unsuccessful, National Journal reports (Mimms, National Journal, 8/6).
The Senate on Monday blocked legislation (S 1881) -- introduced in the wake of the videos -- that would have cut off more than $500 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood. McConnell voted against the bill in a procedural move that allows him to schedule the measure for another vote at a later time. Some lawmakers have suggested the defunding measure's failure could set up a fight over whether to include funding for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget this fall (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).
On Thursday, McConnell dismissed the chance of a government shutdown over the issue, noting that attempts to pass specific funding-related measures by threatening a shutdown "always have the same ending, that the focus is on the fact that the government is shut down, not on what the underlying issue that's being protested is" (National Journal, 8/6). He added, "I can't tell you what will finally end up in or out of any government funding resolution; I can tell you without fear of contradiction there will be no government shutdown" (Sullivan, The Hill, 8/6).
According to McConnell, conservative lawmakers are examining other ways to defund the organization (National Journal, 8/6).
NLIRH Op-Ed: 'Sobering To Consider' Effects of Defunding PP
Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood "face fierce opposition from champions in Congress and the White House," but if any such effort is successful, it "would unquestionably destroy access to health care for millions, including hundreds of thousands of Latinas [who] rely on these clinics for sexual and reproductive health services, including critical preventive care," Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, writes in a New America Media opinion piece.
According to González-Rojas, the attacks against Planned Parenthood are not "ultimately about any one organization" but rather are "merely the latest salvo in a far-reaching, systematic, ideological crusade to deny personal reproductive health decision-making." She explains that "[t]hose behind this crusade, and their allies in Congress, want to deny legal abortion, contraception and other services to anyone and everyone." However, "[f]alling short of that goal, these extremists will content themselves to undermine the health and autonomy of those who are already most marginalized: the young, the undocumented, and those struggling to make ends meet," she writes.
González-Rojas cites Texas, which defunded Planned Parenthood in 2012, as an example of how depriving the organization of its federal funding would affect health care access. She writes, "The following year, Texas met only 13 percent of the need for publicly funded contraception -- less than half of national totals for the same year," and "women reported living with debilitating pain and being forced to discontinue contraception use altogether, resulting in unwanted pregnancies." According to González-Rojas, Latinas, "who are more likely to be low-income, of reproductive age, and to experience unintended pregnancy -- bear the brunt of defunding in Texas and would be immeasurably harmed if Congress followed Texas' bad example."
While "extremists behind these proposals" to defund Planned Parenthood, "unquestionably want to ban abortion ... the real agenda is much broader and would cut off all reproductive health care, especially for those with limited resources," González-Rojas writes. "This is about our health, our lives, and our decisions," she notes, urging people to "stand with Planned Parenthood" and "with the millions of people in this country whose futures may hang in the balance" (González-Rojas, New America Media, 8/5).