Addressing the 44th annual March for Life on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence declared that it was a new day for anti-abortion activists in America.
“This administration will work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America,” Pence told the crowd of thousands gathered on the National Mall.
But it’s already illegal to use taxpayer funding to pay for an abortion.
Congress first passed the Hyde Amendment in 1977, four years after the Supreme Court ruled women have a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. It prevents Medicaid dollars from paying for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s health is endangered.
‘Defunding’ Planned Parenthood has very little to do with abortions
While politicians have popularised the term “defunding” when talking about stripping federal funds for Planned Parenthood, the group’s political communications director, Erica Sackin, said this is misleading.
“There’s no line item in the budget for Planned Parenthood,” Sackin told Business Insider. “We’re not funded through the federal budget bill.”
Planned Parenthood health centres serve 2.5 million people each year, nearly two-thirds of whom rely on public programs like Medicaid to pay for their care. When lawmakers pass bills to “defund” the organisation, (as many states have), those patients then have to pay for healthcare at Planned Parenthood out of pocket.
But, again, the Hyde Amendment prevents women from using Medicaid to pay for abortions.
So while it may seem as if “defunding” Planned Parenthood is a way to prevent abortions, Sackin said, “it’s going to affect people who don’t have anywhere else to go” get care like cancer screenings.
According to Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, only 3% of the organisation’s services are abortions. Most people are getting birth control or STD tests at Planned Parenthood clinics:
Most states follow the Hyde Amendment, but 17 have gone around the law to allow qualified women to use state funding to cover the cost of abortions. A handful of states, however, have passed laws allowing even fewer exceptions than Hyde provides, banning women from getting abortions even for rape or incest.
A new bill that passed the House on January 24 would aim to prohibit any taxpayer funding from paying for abortions, effectively doubling down on the Hyde Amendment. It would have to pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump in order to become law.
What ‘defunding’ could do
At the start of this legislative session, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans plan to defund Planned Parenthood when they try to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
But that’s just part of the fight.
The GOP party platform outlines its firm stance against abortion, Trump has suggested he plans to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, and Pence has enacted some of the country’s strictest legislation against abortion as the governor of Indiana.
Kelley Robinson, the deputy national organising director for Planned Parenthood, said one in five women will visit the organisation in their lifetimes, and that defunding it would be a “national health disaster.”
“The outpouring of need is so, so clear,” Robinson told Business Insider. “People need access to Planned Parenthood. We’re a part of their community, and we’re a critical provider of health care.”
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