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Arizona Republicans Launch Stealth Attack on Planned Parenthood Funding

Nicole Knight

Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, called the budget language a "pretext" to oust Planned Parenthood from Title X.

Arizona GOP legislators have mounted a sneak attack on federal family planning funding for Planned Parenthood, with a vote expected as early as Thursday.

The move comes after President Trump signed a resolution last month allowing states to deny federal Title X money to family planning clinics that provide abortion care with other dollars.

Arizona GOP lawmakers inserted into a budget bill a seemingly innocuous paragraph pertaining to Title X, the federal family-planning grant program that funds annual exams, birth control, and STI testing and treatment—not abortion services. The bill instructs the Arizona Department of Health Services to apply for Title X funds.

That’s something the agency has never done, reproductive rights advocates told Rewire. In fact, an Arizona nonprofit has managed the majority of Title X grants in the state since the 1980s, and it has directed some of that grant money to Planned Parenthood.

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The idea is that the Arizona government will be in charge of the Title X money and will decide who gets it.

Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, called the budget language a “pretext” to oust Planned Parenthood from Title X.

Planned Parenthood serves a significant number of low-income and underserved Arizona residents who rely on Title X clinics. Planned Parenthood served 42 percent of the 33,568 Arizonans who received health care from Title X clinics in 2014, according to a state factsheet.

Arizona lawmakers aren’t the first to mount this kind of attack on Planned Parenthood. Audrey Sandusky, director of advocacy and communications at the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, told Rewire that Wisconsin Republicans last year enacted a similar measure to try to take over Title X grants.

The GOP controls both legislative chambers in Arizona as well as the governor’s office. Arizona Republicans, including Gov. Doug Ducey, have a record of targeting abortion patients, health-care providers, and reproductive health clinics, like Planned Parenthood.

“There is one and only one reason that Governor Ducey is seeking this funding: to double down on his opposition to women’s health care, abortion health care and Planned Parenthood,” Liggett told Rewire. “It should appall every Arizonan that Ducey is marching in lock step with Trump to prevent women from getting health care at the provider they’ve preferred for over 100 years: Planned Parenthood.”

The resolution Trump signed scraps an Obama-era rule intended to stop state-level interference in federal funding of family planning clinics, which offer safe, affordable health care to four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients.

Arizona spends no state money on family planning and has little expertise in this area, Liggett noted.

Since 1983, a nonprofit called Arizona Family Health Partnership has managed the lion’s share of Title X grants in Arizona by disbursing grant money to local Planned Parenthood clinics, federally qualified health centers, and other facilities. The Arizona Family Health Partnership in 2016 managed almost $4.8 million in Title X grants.

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