Now that the 115th United States Congress has convened, Planned Parenthood is on the chopping block. On Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan announced his plans to cut federal money to the organization, which provides preventative and reproductive health care to people of all genders and ages across the US. Planned Parenthood has promised to fight back — because a cut to its federal funds could be disastrous.
“This pronouncement that they would like to deny us the ability to provide care to patients [who] we’ve been serving forever is very concerning,” says Guadalupe Rodriguez, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the Planned Parenthood affiliate that oversees health centers in California’s Silicon Valley. “We’re sounding the call because we’re definitely going to fight to stop it.”
In his weekly press briefing, Ryan announced plans to include legislation in a budget reconciliation bill. It’s the same strategy that Republican lawmakers are using to gut the Affordable Care Act, and it has a good chance of succeeding.
That’s because budget reconciliation bills are unusual: they can only affect spending, revenue, or the debt limit — and they require only a simple majority to pass. What’s more, senators who oppose the measure can’t delay a vote by filibustering. That’s why it’s an especially good strategy when lawmakers want to push controversial legislation through, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
To be clear, there’s already a law that makes it illegal for federal money to fund abortion services. “This is not a conversation about money for anything but healthcare services,” Jaqueline Ayers, Planned Parenthood’s director of legislative affairs, said in a Facebook Live video transcribed by Teen Vogue. Those health care services include pap smears, cervical and breast cancer screenings, STD treatment and testing for both men and women, as well as reproductive and primary care.
She added that the majority the 2.5 million people who use Planned Parenthood’s health services rely on Medicaid. Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low-income and vulnerable people, and it reimburses Planned Parenthood for the care its health centers provide to Medicaid enrollees. “We don’t get a blank check from the federal government,” Ayers said in the video.
About $500 million in federal funds goes to Planned Parenthood each year, according to The Sacramento Bee. More than half of that — $260 million — funds California’s Planned Parenthood clinics that serve approximately 850,000 patients.
Already, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which describes itself as the political arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has started an #IStandWithPlannedParenthood campaign. The campaign includes more than 300 rallies and marches, according to a press release, including one in Sacramento on January 17th. The organization launched a new website, istandwithpp.org, which comes with a donation button. Still, it will be a tall order for individual donations to replace government funding if the GOP succeeds.
“People are stepping up, we’re really thankful for that,” Rodriguez says. But individual donations are unlikely to make up the difference. “If these proposals that the Speaker and congress are hoping to move forward with are voted through, it could be incredibly devastating for the women and families who depend on our services.”