News Politics

GOP’s One-Two Punch: Defund Planned Parenthood, Dismantle Health Care

Christine Grimaldi

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the organization takes Speaker Ryan’s threat “very seriously,” along with the looming specter of Vice President-elect Pence, “who has made his entire career out of ending access to reproductive health care, including at Planned Parenthood.”

House Republicans will attempt to defund Planned Parenthood as part of the fast-track legislative process to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our reconciliation bill,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told reporters Thursday during his weekly press conference.

Planned Parenthood provides health-care services for 2.5 million people every year. The organization estimates that 80 percent of patients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Ryan’s comments referred to the budget reconciliation process, which will expedite the one-two punch of repealing the ACA and defunding Planned Parenthood. Reconciliation requires a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate instead of the 60-vote threshold typically needed to bypass a filibuster and pass controversial legislation. The House only requires a simple majority to pass most legislation, including prior versions of ACA repeal.

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Senate Democrats, even those with mixed-choice records, stand united against efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. They could be joined by GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), who have supported Planned Parenthood despite their opposition to the ACA. The last time Republicans attempted to defund the health-care organization in the same reconciliation bill as ACA repeal, Collins peeled off from the otherwise party-line vote. President Obama vetoed the measure.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards touted support in the Senate, and across the country, for the organization. “When people come into Planned Parenthood for health care, they don’t bring their voting card,” Richards told reporters after a separate House Pro-Choice Caucus press conference on Capitol Hill.

Caucus Co-Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) made it clear that both the ACA and Planned Parenthood are essential to health care. “We are going to stand against this with every fiber of our beings,” DeGette said.

DeGette stood alongside fellow caucus members, including co-chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Richards and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue joined them for the press conference.

Richards stressed that now is not the time to go backward given declining rates of unintended and teen pregnancies. Planned Parenthood has long played a role in providing affordable contraception, and the ACA is well known for its birth control benefit requiring insurers to cover all FDA-approved forms of contraception without co-pays.

With anti-choice Rep. Tom Price likely to be at the helm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a Trump administration could issue a new directive saying that contraception is not a preventative service to get rid of the benefit regardless of Congressional Republicans’ plans to repeal the health care law.

Richards later told reporters that her organization takes Ryan’s threat “very seriously,” along with the looming specter of Vice President-elect Pence, “who has made his entire career out of ending access to reproductive health care, including at Planned Parenthood.”

But she underscored a “real divide between the ideological agenda” of Ryan and Pence and the practicalities of the one in five women, including Trump supporters, who she said have been to Planned Parenthood.

“Donald Trump was not elected to defund Planned Parenthood,” she said.

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