Leading Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly want to increase funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state if Congress cuts federal funds for the reproductive health-care services the organization provides.
Lawmakers have sponsored a bill that would allocate $2.7 million to help pay for health-care services that officials say nearly 25,000 women in Maryland could lose under a proposal introduced in Congress this week.
“This is about protecting the citizens of Maryland, keeping them in good health,” lead sponsor Del. Shane E. Pendergrass (D-Howard) said Wednesday, surrounded by a host of female lawmakers dressed in red for International Women’s Day. “We will not let the federal government mess up the state of Maryland.”
The legislation is the latest attempt by Maryland Democrats to counteract actions by President Trump and Republicans in Congress that Democrats consider “harmful” to state residents. Last month, the General Assembly passed a resolution to allow the state attorney general to sue the federal government without first having to get permission from the governor.
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) also has proposed a bill to address the possible federal defunding of Planned Parenthood; and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has pledged to provide state funding to cover money Planned Parenthood could lose in his state.
Under the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood could not use Medicaid funding and would not be provided support from Title X, a federal program that provides family planning and preventive health services.
“Donald Trump has launched a war on women, especially a war on poor women,” said state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), the lead sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. “It is only right that we stand up to this sort of divisive action.”
Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who in general has tried to distance himself from Trump, did not take a position on the Maryland legislation.
“Health-care organizations have been consistently funded in each of the governor’s budgets,” said Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for the governor. “Future budgetary decisions will be made at the appropriate time.”
State Sen. Andrew A. Serafini (R-Washington County), a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which must approve the bill for it to advance, said he opposed the funding because Planned Parenthood provides abortions among its health services.
“I don’t think we should do this at the state or the federal level, frankly,” Serafini said. “I should not be compelled to fund something that is morally objectionable.”
Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings, including mammograms and Pap smears, birth control, abortions and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The state funding would cover services provided under Title X, which does not include funding for abortions.
Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), a co-sponsor of the bill, said that defunding Planned Parenthood would cause a “public health disaster.” She and others argued that women could die without the services the clinics offer.
“You are literally saving lives of Marylanders,” Karen J. Nelson, president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said during a news conference to unveil the legislation.
While most who spoke at the news conference took aim at Trump and Republicans in Congress, some also took swipes at Hogan for not taking a more public position on federal policies that affect the state.
“I would love for Larry Hogan to stop being silent,” Madaleno said. “It’s time for him to speak up and speak out to protect the people of Maryland.”