Senate Republicans plan to vote on legislation next week stripping nearly $540 million from Planned Parenthood following the release of undercover videos that appear to show organization officials talking casually about selling fetal tissue and organs. Those videos, released by an anti-abortion group, have outraged abortion opponents and ignited a swift response on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is one of at least 20 sponsors of the defunding legislation; and Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, led a group of House members in calling for congressional hearings into Planned Parenthood’s activities.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told reporters in a conference call Wednesday, that while she understands the need to confirm the group’s claim that it broke no law, she would not vote to take money away from Planned Parenthood. “I really think it is short sighted to cut off one of the major avenues that women have to get birth control in this country,” McCaskill said. “We all want to reduce abortions, and the best way to to that is access to family planning services. That’s what Planned Parenthood does; the vast majority of its work.”
In a separate conference call Wednesday, Blunt told reporters that lawmakers would shift the $540 million to other providers. “So, whatever we do there would ensure that the money still gets spent, but gets spent by organizations that frankly have less troubling standards that the ones we’ve seen recently from Planned Parenthood.”
Blunt said, “Missouri community health centers serve almost half-a-million people and would provide the same kinds of services for women’s health that the federal government funds through Planned Parenthood.”
Shifting funds to community health centers across the U.S. does not guarantee that all of the family planning and birth control services will remain available to lower income individuals.
Martin Kramer, director of communications for the Health Resources and Services Administration, says that all health centers funded under the Health Center Program must provide certain basic primary and preventative health services, including reproductive health services such as OB/GYN services, prenatal care and voluntary family planning services.
In an email to St. Louis Public Radio, Kramer said, “voluntary family planning services include appropriate counseling on available family planning options, which are consistent with state regulations, and could include management/treatment as appropriate for a patient’s chosen method.” However, the statute “and health center program regulations do not state whether voluntary family planning services must include contraceptive prescriptions,” Kramer said. “So, it is up to the individual health center to determine which voluntary family planning services to provide.”
Some of the grant funds distributed to Planned Parenthood are also subject to competitive requirements under federal law and not all community health facilities meet the criteria necessary to win those grants.
Senator Blunt's office says, he's confident "that with at least 200 CHC sites in Missouri, which is 15 to 1 compared to Planned Parenthood facilities, women will be able to find the health services they need."