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States Step Up Funds for P. Parenthood 02/21 06:13

   HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Severalstates have begun picking up the tab for 
family planning services at clinics run by Planned Parenthood, which last year 
quit a $260 million federal funding program over a Trump administration rule 
prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions. 

   States including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii already are providing 
new funding, and Democratic governors in Connecticut and Pennsylvania have 
proposed carving out money in state budgets to counter the effects of the 
national provider's fallout with the Republican presidential administration.

   The proposals have stirred political debates over abortion at the state 
level, with some opponents claiming it's a government endorsement of abortion 
and an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.

   Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont earmarked $1.2 million for Planned Parenthood in 
his new budget proposal. The executive director of the Connecticut Catholic 
Conference, Christopher Healy, criticized it as a purely political act. 

   "Where is the pressing need here to do this?" Healy said, arguing Planned 
Parenthood does not need taxpayer money. "They have the ability to raise 
money." 

   Lamont said he wants to help cover an expected shortfall for Planned 
Parenthood to ensure women in Connecticut have access to all the health 
services they need. A spokesman for Lamont said the administration doesn't want 
the abortion debate to stymie access to things like contraception and cervical 
cancer screenings.

   "Look, this is the law of the land. Here in a state like this, we believe 
that abortion rights are right, and we believe they ought to be affordable for 
folks who otherwise might not have that availability," Lamont said. "So I think 
it's the right thing to do."

   Nationwide, about 4 million women across the U.S., many low-income and 
uninsured, were receiving services last year under the Title X federal program, 
including STD testing, various screenings, education and wellness exams. 
Planned Parenthood and some other providers decided to withdraw from the 
program  rather than comply with what Planned Parenthood calls the Trump 
administration's "gag order," which bars clinics that participate in Title X 
from referring women for abortions. The move caused a money crunch for some 
clinics.

   Since then, some of the rejected federal funds have been replenished by 
state or local funds in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont, Oregon, 
Washington, Massachusetts, California and New York. Hawaii's current fiscal 
year budget sets aside $750,000 to partly cover a $2 million loss in Title X 
grant money. 

   In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation 
authorizing up to $8 million. In California, the Santa Clara County Board of 
Supervisors last year voted to cover a $482,000 expected shortfall for six 
Planned Parenthood clinics serving 36,274 patients. And Pennsylvania's 
Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has included a $3 million line item in his 
proposed 2020-21 budget to also help offset the funding loss for Planned 
Parenthood providers. 

   In Oregon, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Trump 
administration's rule, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon 
said the agency has been "working closely with state officials to create 
critical backstops and protect access to care for all Oregonians who need it, 
regardless of federal action on Title X," and commended Gov. Kate Brown, a 
Democrat, for prioritizing funding for reproductive health services. 

   Abortion opponents have accused governors of providing the money to gain 
favor with an organization that often supports Democrats at election time. 

   In New Jersey, where Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy last month signed 
legislation that set aside $9.5 million in state money for family planning at 
Planned Parenthood, New Jersey Right to Life called it a disgraceful money 
grab. 

   "The taxpayers of NJ should not be forced to fund abortion --- and make no 
mistake --- that is what this bill will do," Marie Tasy, the group's executive 
director, said in a written statement.

   Title X regulations prohibit funds from being used for abortions, with some 
narrow exceptions, and the money Lamont has proposed would fund Title X 
services and not on abortions, according to Connecticut's Department of Public 
Health.

   Abortion opponents in Connecticut have argued for years that state funds 
should not be used for abortions or abortion referrals. The state's health 
insurance program paid for 6,995 abortions in 2018. A Department of Social 
Services spokesman said Connecticut is under a court order to pay for any 
abortion for a Medicaid-covered woman that she and her doctor have determined 
to be necessary.

   The state money budgeted by Lamont would not go toward abortions, as it 
would fund only Title X services, according to state health officials. But 
opponents say that regardless of where it goes, the money for Planned 
Parenthood makes it appear the state is outwardly advocating for abortion. 

   "I'm disturbed by it, that it's now state policy to outwardly advocate it 
no, matter what," said Chris O'Brien, executive director of Connecticut Right 
to Life. 

   It's unclear how long the help from states will continue.

   Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy 
at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said it's "encouraging" that 
governors and state legislators are trying to fill the gap, but said the 
state-by-state efforts cannot replace the nearly 50-year-old Title X program. 

   "While we applaud leaders in the states for taking these temporary but 
critical steps, we must continue fighting for a nationwide solution," Ayers 
said. "Only Congress has the power to permanently stop this harmful rule, and 
people across the country are continuing to call on them to do so."


(KR)

 
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