Planned Parenthood does not have many GOP friends in Congress, but one rare, pro-choice Republican in the House of Representatives stuck his neck out on Wednesday and announced his plan to protect the family planning provider from his party's political attacks.
Freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) on Wednesday introduced H.R. 5650, the Protecting Women’s Access to Health Care Act, which prevents lawmakers from blocking Title X family planning funds to Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.
"Specifically, this legislation says that when it comes to participation in the Title X program, health care providers such as hospitals and health care clinics, including Planned Parenthood, cannot be discriminated against and excluded simply because they choose to offer additional services, separate from Title X," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Eight state legislatures have voted to defund Planned Parenthood over the past several years in order to prevent so-called "taxpayer-funded abortions," and the House voted to block Title X money to Planned Parenthood last year. Even though the Hyde Amendment prevents the government from using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, Republican lawmakers often use the argument that awarding Title X or Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing and birth control could free up other money that it will use for abortion services.
Dold said his plan is to "bring both sides together" in support of Planned Parenthood and to educate people about the importance of the Title X program, which provides family planning and related preventive health services to about five million low-income Americans each year. But this is sure to be a daunting task, as the GOP has been fairly vocal and united in its criticism of Planned Parenthood. Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, said earlier this year that he would "get rid of" Planned Parenthood funding to balance the budget, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) launched a Congressional investigation into the family planning provider after an anti-abortion activist group accused it of misusing federal funds.
Stearns scoffed at Dold's bill in an interview with Politico.
“I wonder how many Republican co-sponsors he’ll get,” he said. “I don’t understand why a bill is needed -- there’s no discrimination against Planned Parenthood. We’re getting financial records, the cases that we’ve seen where they’ve committed Medicaid fraud, we need to know why this is occurring and why they are getting government money.”