GOP Senators and State Officials Revive Bills to Halt Taxpayer Funding of Planned Parenthood
On February 17, Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) reintroduced a bill that would allow states to exclude abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from receiving federal Medicaid funds. Experts say the bill is part of a multi-pronged strategy that is being deployed by GOP lawmakers and state officials to divest the abortion industry of taxpayer dollars in the wake of the Supreme Court’s monumental Dobbs decision that returned abortion regulation back to the authority of state governments.
The Women’s Public Health and Safety Act would allow states to disqualify abortion businesses as health care providers and disallow them from receiving reimbursements from a state’s Medicaid system. A Government Accountability Office report revealed that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion supplier, received almost $1.3 billion in Medicaid reimbursements over three years, which accounted for 81% of its government-provided funding.
“Abortion is not health care,” said Lankford in a press release. “It should not be controversial to say that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to support abortion providers. States should have the right to decide that Medicaid funds will not support an abortion provider’s bottom line.”
The movement to defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses from receiving taxpayer dollars was reenergized in 2015 following the release of a series of undercover videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, which revealed the involvement of Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses in the illegal procurement and sale of fetal body parts obtained from the bodies of aborted babies.
Following the revelations, a number of states attempted to terminate the Medicaid contracts of Planned Parenthood, including South Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, and Texas, but the policies were blocked by federal courts due in part to a clause in the Medicaid statute that defines abortion businesses as qualified to perform medical services, as well as the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling.
However, the legal pattern appeared to shift in 2020 when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas had jurisdiction to remove Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program because of the state’s authority to determine which medical providers are qualified for the program.
Other states are also pursuing legal challenges to the taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in the wake of Dobbs. On Thursday, it was reported that Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) “petitioned a federal court to allow a 2016 Florida law to go into effect” that restricted state funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
“In 2016, a district court prevented the Florida Legislature from defunding abortion clinics, based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe,” Moody explained. “Now that the case at the center of the court’s reasoning has been overturned, we are petitioning the court to vacate the court’s injunction and allow the will of our state’s legislative body and the people who elected them to take effect.”
Governor Ron DeSantis’s (R) office signaled its support of the effort. “The Office of Governor Ron DeSantis is fully behind this action from the Attorney General and we support this move to fully defund Planned Parenthood from any taxpayer support,” the Executive Office of the Governor stated.
Connor Semelsberger, director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity at Family Research Council, expressed support for state efforts to withhold taxpayer funding from abortion businesses.
“There may be state and other legal actions we can take to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood that wouldn’t involve Congress,” he told The Washington Stand. “This [Women’s Public Health and Safety Act] bill is good, but in addition there are other avenues the pro-life movement can pursue.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.