House Bill Would Decimate Women’s Health Care in Cities and Rural Areas, Governors and Mayor Say

Jodi Jacobson

The Governors of Connecticut and Vermont and the Mayor of New York City described the devastating effects the GOP's cuts to Title X and Planned Parenthood would have on women in their states.

In a conference call today, the Governors of Connecticut and Vermont and the Mayor of New York City described the devastating effects the GOP’s cuts to Title X and Planned Parenthood would have on women in their states as well as on the fiscal health of their region.

Juxtaposing the needs of women in one of the nation’s largest cities (New York City) and in Vermont, one of the nation’s most rural states, the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg and the Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin spoke today about how cuts to both Title X and to Planned Parenthood would undermine the health of the populations they represent. Each of their concerns were echoed by Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

Last week, the GOP/Tea-Party-dominated House of Representatives passed both a Continuing Resolution (CR) that effectively eliminates funding for Title X programs, and the Pence Amendment to the CR that specifically targets Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), prohibiting federal funding of preventive health care services provided by the organization.

Over 90 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics are made up of preventive care, including breast and cervical exams, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and contraceptive supplies.  PPFA clinics serve more than 5 million clients across the country each year. If the House budget and the Pence Amendment are passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, literally millions of women and men will lose their only source of health care.

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“[Cuts to] Title X and the Pence are not about fiscal responsibility or cutting the U.S. budget,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “These cuts are purely about politics.  And they will have serious consequences for women’s health care across New York City and the nation.”

In fact, rather than reducing government spending or the deficit, both governors and the mayor underscored the dramatically increased financial burdens that would arise from cutting preventive care, which in turn means more and more expensive illness down the road.

More than 8 million people live in New York City, for example; more than half the population is 25 years of age or younger. And over 15 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty level. Planned Parenthood provides access to essential preventive care to more than 50,000 residents of New York City each year, conducting more than 79,900 tests for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), 12,000 life-saving cervical cancer screenings, and 56,000 contraceptive visits.

“These clinics are often the only place where poor and working women can see someone for care,” said Bloomberg. 

Moreover, he noted, increased access to contraceptives has reduced the rate of abortion in New York City in the last decade.  “Our numbers are going in the right direction,” Bloomberg stated. But, he continued:

“If you want to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, cutting funds to Planned Parenthood is not the way. It would take us in the other direction, and it would cost us money. Everyone is talking about how the government is spending too much money, but cutting [preventive care provided by Planned Parenthood] will cost more money and lead to more unintended pregnancies and abortions.”

Bloomberg also noted that the loss of funding for family planning services and the consequent increase in unintended pregnancies would adversely affect both infants and small children because without access to contraception, more women will have “more unintended pregnancies, more closely spaced,” which is harmful for both mother and infant.

Governor Shumlin raised deep concerns about the effects these cuts would have on rural women in his state which is, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “atypically rural.” Planned Parenthood of Northern New England sees more than 19,500 patients each year, and provides more than 24,700 STI tests (including HIV tests), 5,500 cervical cancer screenings, 9,600 breast exams and 17,000 contraceptive visits.

“Here in Vermont, cutting Title X money would be devastating,” warned Shumlin. “In a small rural state like Vermont, Planned Parenthood clinics oftentimes are the only source of health care [rural] low-income women get and the only access they have to critical health care, not only to avoid unintended pregnancies but for general health care.”

“This is more about politics than policy,” Shumlin stated.

Connecticut Governor Malloy said he’d written to Connecticut’s congressional delegation, urging them to “come to their senses” when it comes to cuts to programs such as Title X and funding for Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood of Southern New England sees more than 62,300 patients each year, providing more than 90,400 STI tests (including HIV tests), 16,700 lifesaving cervical cancer screenings, 5,200 breast exams and 55,300 contraceptive visits

Shumlin and Bloomberg also stated they’d written to both their delegations and to House leadership.

Eliminating these funds would, they all agreed, increase rates of undiagnosed and untreated cervical and breast cancer, leading to increased deaths among women, higher rates of infections, and higher rates of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

“We have a choice,” Shumlin concluded. “We can play politics and cut off our nose to spite our face, or we can do the right thing and fund Planned Parenthood.”

News Law and Policy

AmeriCorps Health Program Loses Funding Amid Abortion Controversy

Nicole Knight Shine & Christine Grimaldi

A spokesperson for the Corporation for National and Community Service said in an email to Rewire that the grantee "was unsuccessful in a highly competitive year, and they were not the only longtime grantee to not receive funding."

AmeriCorps, the federal government’s public service arm, is ending its oldest neighborhood health program amid reports that a few members broke the law by offering emotional support, or doula care, to abortion patients.

Although Samantha Jo Warfield, a spokesperson for the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps, on Thursday described the Community HealthCorps funding cut as a routine decision in competitive grant process, powerful Republicans in Congress had been gunning for the program following a critical report in April by the inspector general’s office.

The timing of the report, issued by the Office of Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps, came just as the agency was reviewing grantees for funding.

The report said that a few AmeriCorps members were authorized by the former director of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), a nonprofit grantee that runs Community HealthCorps, to offer emotional support to abortion patients at three New York City clinics between 2013 and 2015.

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The report also included allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse by NACHC senior management.

A federal statue, the report goes on to say, expressly prohibits the use of AmeriCorps resources to “provid[e] abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.” The report fails to make clear whether the emotional support, described parenthetically in the report as “doula care,” happened during work or non-work hours.

In April, Republicans were swift to blast NACHC, which has been until now AmeriCorps’ largest grantee, taking in $30 million over the last five years.

The head of the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), demanded the “immediate termination and nonrenewal” of NACHC’s grant in a letter on April 26 to Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps. Cole described NACHC’s “blatant disregard for federal law” as “outrageous.”

The anti-choice group the Family Research Council suggested that “AmeriCorpse” was promoting the “abortion industry.”

Warfield, spokesperson for Corporation for National and Community Service, didn’t respond to Rewire‘s emailed questions about a possible political motivation for eliminating the grantee’s funding after a 20-plus year relationship.

Rather, Warfield did reply that the grantee “was unsuccessful in a highly competitive year, and they were not the only longtime grantee to not receive funding.” She also dismissed news reports that Community HealthCorps was AmeriCorps’ sole health-care program.

In a statement Thursday, the National Association of Community Health Centers said it was “disappointed” at the funding cut. It noted that the health-care program had helped 240,000 Americans on average annually, and produced “solid results for the country for over two decades.”

Warfield told BuzzFeed, which broke the news, that more than 400 AmeriCorps clinic volunteers, who earn a small stipend and student loan forgiveness for their participation, will be able to finish their term in Community HealthCorps.

As Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire vice president of law and courts, noted in an April analysis, the inspector general’s report is silent on whether members were offering emotional support to abortion patients during work or non-work hoursan important distinction. Pieklo noted, “AmeriCorps volunteers are free to work as abortion doulas on their own time and not wearing AmeriCorps gear to do so.”

Pieklo also pointed out that the same federal law that bars providing abortion services or referrals permits individuals to “exercise their rights as private citizens and may participate in the activities listed above [such as the abortion restrictions] on their initiative, on non-AmeriCorps time, and using non-CNCS funds.”

Roundups Politics

The House Freedom Fund Bankrolls Some of Congress’ Most Anti-Choice Candidates

Ally Boguhn

With the 2016 election cycle underway, the political action committee seems to be working tirelessly to ensure the House Freedom Caucus maintains a radical anti-choice legacy.

In its short existence, the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) has made a name for itself through endless efforts to push Congress further to the right, particularly when it comes to reproductive health. Now with the 2016 election cycle underway, the caucus’ political action committee, the House Freedom Fund, seems to be working just as tirelessly to ensure the caucus maintains a radical anti-choice legacy.

Since its founding by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in January 2015, the group of ultra-conservative lawmakers that make up the caucus has ballooned from just nine members to at least 36 members, as of October 2015, who have confirmed their own inclusion—though the group keeps its official roster secret. These numbers may seem small, but they pack a punch in the House, where they have enough votes to block major legislation pushed by other parts of the Republican party.

And now, the group is seeking to add to its ranks in order to wield even more power in Congress.

“The goal is to grow it by, and I think it’s realistic, to grow it by 20 to 30 members,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), one of HFC’s founding members, told Politico in April. “All new members.”

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While the caucus itself reportedly does not endorse candidates, its unofficial PAC has already thrown money behind defending the seats of some of the group’s most notoriously anti-choice members, as well as a few new faces.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics’ campaign finance database, thus far in 2016, the House Freedom Fund has invested in seven congressional candidates currently vying to keep a seat in the House of Representatives: Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA), Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R-TN), Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). The PAC’s website also highlights two candidates hoping to move from their state legislatures to the House: Republican Indiana state senator Jim Banks and Georgia state Senator Mike Crane. The PAC is also backing the Republican candidate for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, Mary Thomas; and Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, Ted Budd.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who won a special election in early June to replace former House speaker John Boehner, also received funding from the PAC. He joined the House Freedom Caucus that same week.

The Republican Party actively works to deny access to virtually all forms of reproductive health care, so it is not surprising that the candidates supported by the House Freedom Fund, whose confirmed members are all members of the GOP, share similarly radical views on reproductive rights and health.

Here are some of the House Freedom Fund’s most alarming candidates:

Rep. Rod Blum

Rep. Blum, a freshman congressman from Iowa, considers his opposition to reproductive choice one of the “cornerstones” of his campaign. “It is unconscionable that government would aid in the taking of innocent life. I strongly oppose any federal funding for abortion and I will vote against any of our tax dollars flowing to groups who perform or advocate abortions on demand,” asserts Blum’s campaign site. The Hyde Amendment already bans most federal funding for abortion care.

Blum spent much of his first year in the House attempting to push through a series of anti-choice bills. The representative co-sponsored the medically unsupported Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have enacted a federal ban on abortion at or beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, in January 2015. He signed on as a co-sponsor for the failed Life at Conception Act, a so-called personhood measure that would have granted legal rights to fetuses and zygotes, thus potentially outlawing abortion and many forms of contraception, in March of that year. That July, Blum co-sponsored the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which would have stripped the reproductive health organization of all federal funding for one year so that Congress could investigate it in the wake of the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) discredited videos smearing the provider. 

Blum’s co-sponsorship of anti-choice legislation was accompanied by a long series of like-minded votes throughout 2015, such as a January vote in favor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015, which, among other things, would have made the Hyde Amendment’s annually renewed ban on most federal funding for abortion care permanent. He also voted to block Washington, D.C.’s Reproductive Health non-discrimination law, and in favor of a measure allowing states to exclude from Medicaid funding any health provider that provided abortions, as well as other anti-choice measures.

Blum’s brief time in Congress has been marked by such extremism that Emily’s List, an organization that works to elect pro-choice women, put Blum on their “On Notice” list in July 2015, signaling their intention to prioritize unseating the Iowa Representative. “In less than five months into the 114th Congress, we have seen Representative Blum lead the crusade to restrict women’s access to healthcare, most notably when he cosponsored a national abortion ban,” explained the organization in a press release on its decision to target Blum. “It’s clear that Congressman Blum is more focused on prioritizing an extreme ideological agenda over enacting policies that benefit more women and families in Iowa’s First Congressional District.”

Rep. Dave Brat

Rep. Dave Brat gained notoriety for his win against incumbent representative and then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014, a victory considered one of “the biggest political upset[s] in recent memory.” Like many of his HFC colleagues, Brat has co-sponsored several pieces of anti-choice legislation, including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2015 and the Conscience Protection Act of 2016, which claimed to “protect” against “governmental discrimination against providers of health services” who refuse to provide abortion care. Brat’s voting record in Congress earned him a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

In April of this year, the Virginia representative signed on to a letter with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other anti-choice legislators, such as House Freedom Fund candidate Rep. Meadows expressing “serious concerns” about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to update the label of abortion drug mifepristone to bring it in line with scientific research and evidence-based medicine. Though medication abortions are safe and result in complications in fewer than 0.4 percent of patients, the lawmakers nonetheless claimed that the regulation change could be dangerous, noting that the drug was originally approved during the Clinton administration and demanding a list of information about it.

In the wake of the deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility in November, when the alleged shooter parroted the same violent rhetoric about the reproductive health organization popularized by the CMP’s discredited videos, many in Congress called for the panel investigating Planned Parenthood to be disbanded and for lawmakers to distance themselves from the videos. Brat, however, saw no reason the anti-choice violence should affect the conservative crusade to shut down access to reproductive health care. “Principles are principles,” Brat said at the time according to the Huffington Post. “They don’t change on a news cycle.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp has been an anti-choice advocate since graduate school, when, according to the biography provided on his website, he was “active in assisting women in crisis pregnancies” while working toward a doctoral degree at American University. His advocacy continued as he made his way to Congress, eventually leading him to become the congressional “Pro-Life Caucus” whip.

Though he has cast plenty of anti-choice votes, the congressman’s most notable moment when it comes to reproductive rights may be a 2012 speech on the House floor, in when he compared abortion to slavery and accused Planned Parenthood and the Obama administration of being racist. “Perhaps the biggest war against our liberties is the war that is being waged against those that are not here today, the unborn,” claimed Huelskamp. “Besides slavery, abortion is the other darkest stain on our nation’s character and this president is looking for every way possible to make abortion more available and more frequent. And he wants you to pay for it. Even if you disagree with it.”

Huelskamp went on to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of targeting people of color. “I am the adoptive father of four children, each of them either Black, Hispanic, Native American, and I am incensed that this president pays money to an entity that was created for the sole purpose of killing children that look like mine; a racist organization and it continues to target minorities for abortion destruction,” said the congressman. “Shame on this president and shame on that party.”

It wouldn’t be the last time Huelskamp exploited race in order to promote his anti-choice agenda. In 2015, the Kansas Representative lashed out at those who accepted awards from Planned Parenthood, tweeting that they were supporting a “racist” agenda.

Rep. Mark Meadows

Rep. Mark Meadows, who has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, co-sponsored anti-choice measures such as the House’s 2015 fetal pain bill, the 2015 Life at Conception Act, and the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016 (PRENDA). He also once badgered a pregnant doctor testifying during a House committee hearing about the importance of offering maternity coverage through the Affordable Care Act. However, the congressman’s recent vendetta against Planned Parenthood stands out the most.

In July 2015, in the wake of CMP’s deceptively edited videos, Meadows latched onto the discredited films in order to justify defunding Planned Parenthood. “In addition to cutting funding for abortion providers, I strongly urge Congress to investigate the legality of the practices engaged in by Planned Parenthood,” said Meadows at the time.

In September, as Congress faced the looming threat of a possible government shutdown if they didn’t pass a budget bill, Meadows exploited the opportunity to push for Planned Parenthood to be defunded, no matter the cost. With the South Carolina congressman leading the charge, pressure from conservatives to pull funding for the reproductive health-care provider played a role in prompting then-House Speaker John Boehner to resign his position. Meadows was a co-sponsor of the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which passed in the House as part of a compromise to narrowly escape the shutdown. 

But Meadows’ quest to attack Planned Parenthood didn’t end there. In September, the congressman also participated in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearing to “examine the use of taxpayer funding” by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, a sham hearing used by the GOP to repeatedly push misinformation about the organization.

Rep. Scott Desjarlais

Rep. Scott Desjarlais, a medical doctor, is perhaps best known for his attempt to pressure his patient, with whom he was having an affair, into having an abortion when she became pregnant. While the congressman has repeatedly run on his anti-abortion credentials, his divorce papers also revealed he had supported his wife in having two abortions. Politico‘s Chas Sisk labeled DeJarlais  “the biggest hypocrite in Congress.”

Desjarlais made headlines again in 2015 for voting for a later abortion ban. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican told the Times Free Press that the vote was in accordance with the congressman’s record:

“Congressman DesJarlais was proud to vote in favor of this legislation,” said his spokesman Robert Jameson, who added that DesJarlais has maintained a “100 percent pro-life voting record” during his five years in Congress and “has always advocated for pro-life values.”

Indiana State Sen. Jim Banks

Indiana state Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) is one of the few candidates backed by the House Freedom Fund that has yet to win federal office, but his time in the state legislature has given him more than ample opportunity to demonstrate his opposition to reproductive health and rights.

Banks’ campaign website highlights the candidate’s “pro-life” position as a key issue for his race for the House, providing an extensive record of his anti-choice credentials and claiming that he is “running for Congress so that northeast Indiana continues to have a strong voice for innocent lives in Washington, D.C.” That page includes a laundry list of campaign promises, including amending the U.S. Constitution to give a fetus legal human rights, which could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception; banning federal funding for abortion, though such a ban already exists; eliminating federal funding for any organization that performs abortions domestically or abroad; and opposing any change to the Republican platform on abortion.

The state senator’s site goes on to suggest that “it has been far too long since the Supreme Court discovered that women have a ‘right’ to have an abortion,” lamenting that much of the anti-choice movement’s work to shutter access to abortion in state legislatures hasn’t been replicated on a federal level and promising to address the issue if elected.

Included in his anti-choice resumé is a note that both Banks and his wife have been working in the movement to oppose choice since graduating college, when the two joined Focus on the Family, an organization that has spent millions of dollars promoting its extreme agenda, even devoting $2.5 million to run an anti-abortion ad during the 2010 Super Bowl. The two also worked together on the Allen County Right to Life Board of Directors, and Banks’ wife, Amanda, remains the board’s vice president.

But most extreme of all was the legislation Banks spearheaded while in the state legislature, which included several targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) measures. Most recently the state senator sponsored Indiana’s SB 144, a bill that would modify the state’s 20-week abortion ban to outlaw the procedure once a fetal heartbeat could be detected, typically around six weeks’ gestation. In a statement on the bill, Banks claimed the law was needed because it “would protect unborn Hoosiers’ right to life and also includes important women’s health protections.”