Abortion-rights advocates protest in 2012 outside a D.C. hotel where GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was holding a fundraiser. The protesters spoke out against Romney’s proposal to stop federal support for Planned Parenthood. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
In passing their health-care bill, House Republicans have also taken a first step toward dramatically slashing federal funds for Planned Parenthood clinics.
The women’s health provider stands to lose about 30 percent of its funding under a provision in the GOP health-care bill to block it from getting Medicaid reimbursements for one year unless its hundreds of clinics stop offering abortions.
The defunding measure took a back seat to larger negotiations over the American Health Care Act, as House GOP leaders struggled to get enough members on board. And far from final passage, it’s likely to run into opposition in the Senate.
But the passage of the AHCA in the House represents a big, initial victory for conservatives who have long sought to undercut the country’s largest abortion provider and who extracted a promise from President Trump during his campaign that he would sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood.
“Congress is going to vote to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Vice President Pence said at a gala Wednesday hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group. “And when they vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, we will finally defund Planned Parenthood.”
Republicans included the defunding language in the measure rewriting the Affordable Care Act so that it would be subject to special rules designed to pass it by a 50-vote majority in the Senate. They see that as the surest way to ensure they don’t need Democratic votes in the Senate for passage — Republicans hold a 52-to-48 vote margin in the Senate.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are already banned from billing taxpayer-funded programs for the procedure. But conservatives say no abortion provider should get Medicaid reimbursements, even for health services such as cancer screenings and birth control, arguing that the money is all fungible.
“[The health-care bill] will do what is right by stopping taxpayer funding for abortions and refocusing Medicaid on those who most need it,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Planned Parenthood relies on federal reimbursements and grants for 43 percent of its budget, about $550 million a year, according to the group’s annual report. The GOP health-care bill does not block the $60 million in Title X family-planning funds Planned Parenthood receives annually.
But losing out on half a billion dollars from the Medicaid program would be a heavy blow to the group, which operates about 700 clinics across the country. Planned Parenthood said Thursday in a statement that Congress is unfairly singling it out. House Democrats also objected.
“This bill will gut Planned Parenthood in the first year, affecting women across the country,” said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.).
Republicans contend that community health centers have the capacity to care for Medicaid patients who would no longer be able to visit Planned Parenthood centers — and note that community health centers provide a broader range of services than Planned Parenthood, which focuses on reproductive health.
If the Senate strips Planned Parenthood defunding from the health-care bill, conservatives are likely to revolt. SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called it “nonnegotiable.”
“The bill redirects taxpayer dollars away from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business, to health-care centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventative care to women and girls,” Dannenfelser said.