Analysis Politics

Paul Ryan Falsely Claims Planned Parenthood Uses Taxpayer Money for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

"We don't want to commit people's taxpayer dollars to effectively funding something that they believe is morally unconscionable," said Paul Ryan (R-WI) at a CNN town hall event on Thursday.

Speaking during a town hall event hosted by CNN on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ignored the Hyde Amendment’s ban on most federal funding for abortion to push the myth that Planned Parenthood has effectively used taxpayer funding to provide abortions.

A George Washington University graduate student confronted Ryan about his stance on defunding the reproductive health-care provider, explaining that she has gone to Planned Parenthood for care. “I can tell you personally that Planned Parenthood provided help when I couldn’t go to anybody else,” she said.

Just last week, Ryan announced that an effort to defund Planned Parenthood would be included in House Republicans’ reconciliation bill, which is being used to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite the more than 20 million people who rely on it for health insurance.

The graduate student asked where “millions of women, low-income groups” will go to receive care, should Planned Parenthood be defunded.

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Ryan replied by suggesting that he, along with the rest of his party, cared about women’s health care, and that community health centers could fill the shoes of Planned Parenthood should the GOP be successful in their quest to shut down the provider. According to CNN’s transcript, Ryan said:

First of all, I want to make sure you get the care you need. We want to make sure that all women get the kind of care that they need. Like preventative screenings and services like you’re talking about. We believe that this can be better be done by putting that money in federal community health centers.

Federal community health centers, I have a lot of experience with them myself. They’re—they’re all throughout Wisconsin. They’re—they’re virtually in every community. By putting these dollars in the federal community health centers, which provide the same kinds of services for every Planned Parenthood, there is—there are 20 federal community health centers. They’re vastly bigger in network, there are so many more of them, and they provide these kinds of services without all of the controversy surrounding this issue.

But a new report released by the Guttmacher Institute that same day underscored what reproductive health experts have long said: Community health centers, though they make up a vital part of the health-care landscape, are not prepared to fill the gap in care that would be created should Planned Parenthood lose its funding.

Although conservatives like Ryan often push this myth, “evidence suggests otherwise,” according to Guttmacher’s Kinsey Hasstedt, who authored the report. “Planned Parenthood health centers consistently perform better than other types of publicly funded family planning providers on key indicators of accessibility and quality of contraceptive care,” Hasstedt explained. “Plus, Planned Parenthood serves a greater share of women who obtain contraceptive care from safety-net health centers. And in some communities and for many women, Planned Parenthood is the sole source of publicly funded contraceptive care. It is simply unrealistic to expect other providers to readily step up and restore the gravely diminished capacity of the family planning safety net were Planned Parenthood defunded.”

Host Jake Tapper followed up on Ryan’s answer to the graduate student by questioning how the representative can say he “believe[s] in providing more choice for people when it comes to health insurance, except for Planned Parenthood.”

Ryan then leaped to falsely claim that taxpayer dollars were going to the organization for abortion care:

Well, there is a long-standing principle that we’ve all believed in. And—by the way, this is for pro-choice, pro-life people—that we don’t want to commit taxpayer funding for abortion. And, Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider.

So, we don’t want to effectively commit taxpayer money to an organization providing abortions. But, we want to make sure that people get their coverage. That’s why there’s no conflict by making sure that these dollars go to federal community health centers, which provide these services and have a vast larger network than these Planned Parenthood clinics, which—which are surrounded by a lot of controversy.

And, we don’t want to commit people’s taxpayer dollars to effectively funding something that they believe is morally unconscionable. Not everybody believes that and I understand that. But, that’s a long-standing principle that we’ve had in this country that we want to maintain.

Putting aside that the “controversy” around Planned Parenthood is the result of a GOP-led “witch hunt” based on an anti-choice organization’s discredited smear campaign, Ryan made this assertion knowing full well that Hyde already ensures that federal funding isn’t going to Planned Parenthood, or any other organization, for abortion. He’s spoken about it numerous times, and his “Better Way” health-care policy paper seeks to expand the abortion restriction.

Jake Tapper called out Ryan’s misinformation, pointing to Hyde and noting that “of course, taxpayers don’t fund abortions, right now, right?”

“Right,” Ryan fumbled. “But, they get a lot of money and—and you know, money is fungible and it effectively floats these organizations which then use other money. You know, money is fungible.”

As Amanda Marcotte explained for Slate in 2015, “Republicans who tout the ‘money is fungible’ line want you to imagine that Planned Parenthood draws on one big pot of government money for all its services. But since medical services are billed and funded individually, that’s not actually how this works. For instance, if subsidies that discount contraception disappear, the price of contraception goes up, but the price of abortion will stay the same.”

“We know this because recent experience shows it,” Marcotte continued. She pointed to a rise in the price of some forms of contraception in 2006 after drug companies increased their prices for some providers. “Faced with growing expenses to provide contraception, clinics charged more for contraception, often seeing costs soar to two or three times what they were before,” she wrote. “But during this same time, the price for an abortion stayed the same.”

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