IT’S PRETTY clear that a proposal floated by the White House to safeguard federal funding to Planned Parenthood if the group stopped providing abortions never stood a chance of even being considered by the group. “Non-negotiable,” said one Planned Parenthood official. But the fact that the idea was broached at all is significant as the latest sign that Republicans recognize the problems — and likely political repercussions — of cutting off funds to an organization that is held in high regard by the American public for providing critical health-care services.
Weakening or destroying Planned Parenthood has been high on the GOP agenda for years, and with the party in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the threat is real. The bill released Monday by House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act includes a provision that would block people with Medicaid coverage from receiving care at Planned Parenthood health centers. “Defunding” — the term commonly used by Republicans — is a misnomer since the group doesn’t receive a blank check or a line-item appropriation from the government but instead is reimbursed, like any other health-care provider, for preventative health care, including birth control, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment.
Except in very rare instances, no federal money pays for abortions, a fact that underlies the illogic of the Republicans’ ideological attack on the organization. If Republican efforts succeed, the victims will be the low-income people, both men and women, who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic health care. The argument that other providers will fill the gap is, as experts have repeatedly said, a complete myth.
No doubt the White House understands it’s between a rock and a hard place in trying to satisfy the GOP’s conservative base by living up to its campaign promises while most Americans are opposed to stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funding. Hence, as the New York Times reported, the trial balloon of seeing if Planned Parenthood would be willing to stop providing abortions. Whatever one’s personal views about abortion, it is legal, and Planned Parenthood was right not to consider selling out the interests of its patients.
It’s time for the White House to go back to the drawing board to figure a way out of its dilemma. Here’s an idea: Study what President Trump said as a candidate about Planned Parenthood. “Millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood,” he said in a February 2016 debate. In other words: Stop the grandstanding and allow this respected health organization to continue its work unimpeded.