At their annual meeting in Orlando, Florida over the weekend, the U.S. Conference of Mayors approved a resolution in support of funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s access to abortion services and contraception. The nonpartisan organization representing mayors from over 1,300 cities criticized both state governments and Congress for attempting to roll back women’s access to reproductive care.
In the resolution, the mayors pointed to anti-choice legislation in several states including the now-infamous mandatory ultrasound laws that caused an uproar earlier this year in Virginia, as well as state laws that ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy “regardless of the women’s situation, without exceptions to protect her health, and in violation of the right to privacy guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.” The mayors also chided Congress for voting to defund Title X and Planned Parenthood as well as several other anti-choice bills approved by the Republican-majority House of Representatives since 2010. “(The) U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress and the states to pursue a positive agenda that reaffirms fundamental rights and improves women’s access to safe and comprehensive reproductive-health care,” the resolution concludes.
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Mayors are more likely to see the direct results of what unplanned pregnancies can do in a city and the additional costs it takes to cover expenses. It’s no wonder that they are anxious to see Planned Parenthood continue to get the funding they need to provide health care for low income and uninsured residents.
Congressional Republicans investigating widely discredited claims about fetal tissue trafficking and abortion expect to spend $1.2 million on the anti-choice crusade by the end of the year.
The figure represents the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives’ total estimated budget for calendar year 2016, a high-ranking GOP aide in the U.S. House of Representatives told Rewire. The disclosure marks the first time Republicans have revealed how much taxpayer money they are spending on the investigation rooted in deceptively edited Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos, dubbed by Democratic legislators as a “witch hunt.”
The Committee on House Administration has tapped nearly 80 percent of the chamber’s funding reserves, approving $790,000 for the investigation, split two-thirds and one-third between Republicans and Democrats. The committee initially transferred $300,000 to the panel in 2015, which was only for that year.
Excluding the 2015 transfer, the 2016 budget shortfall totals about $710,000. Including the transfer, about $410,000.
Republicans, however, anticipate a roughly $450,000 shortfall, according to the aide, who acknowledged that they have yet to figure out how they would make up the shortfall. Details about potential funding sources could not be immediately ascertained, though the aide said Republicans would have to produce the funding no later than December 1.
Several options exist for GOP lawmakers. Republicans could earmark the money in an increasingly likely continuing resolution, which would fund the overall U.S. government in the absence of viable appropriations bills. However, that would require U.S. Senate passage—hardly a guarantee with such a controversial rider, according to a House Democratic aide.
Republicans could amend the initial resolution creating the panel and bring it back to the floor, the Democratic aide told Rewire. Resolutions only require passage by one chamber, the aide said, providing a more failsafe option.
Another possibility is for Republicans to draw from the budget of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the panel.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the panel’s ranking member, denounced the investigation following the disclosure of taxpayer dollars behind it.
“Republicans continue to waste taxpayer dollars recycling inflammatory and thoroughly discredited allegations of anti-abortion extremists,” Schakowsky told Rewire in an email. “The Select Panel started with a lie, and has been conducted to perpetuate that lie through manufactured, misleading ‘evidence’ and suppression of facts that run contrary to the Republicans’ predetermined narrative. It would be bad enough if this were just a waste of taxpayer time and money. But this Panel is putting women’s health care and life-saving research at risk. America deserves better. Speaker Ryan can and should stop this witch hunt now.”
In a July 14 interview with Rewire, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), a once outspoken proponent of fetal tissue research, didn’t know how much, if any, committee funding has gone toward the select panel’s work. Upton referred Rewire to a committee spokesperson, who did not reply to requests for comment.
Select panel Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) similarly could not answer Rewire’s funding inquiries at a July 14 press conferenceproviding an interim update on the investigation a year after the release of the first CMP videos. Blackburn deferred to Republican leadership regarding how much financial support Energy and Commerce may have provided the panel beyond the House’s reserve coffers.
The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”
The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”
In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.
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The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.
Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.
“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” saidCecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”
The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.
Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.
A 2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.
In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.