WASHINGTON ― The House of Representatives passed a health care bill on Thursday that would block Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood, which could strip birth control access and preventive health care from an estimated 390,000 low-income women.
Republicans have been trying to defund Planned Parenthood since they gained control of the House in 2010 because some of its clinics offer abortions. The House bill, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, would prevent Medicaid from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for preventive health services like contraception, Pap smears and sexually transmitted infection screenings. Roughly 60 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 2.5 million patients rely on public assistance for health care, so the law would force them to look for another affordable family planning provider.
The GOP bill will now move to the Senate, where it may have a tougher time. But if the upper chamber sends it to President Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood will immediately lose Medicaid funding for a year.
“The day Obamacare passed was also a day of disappointment for the sanctity of life, but hope is finally shining through,” Pence said. “When this bill passes, it will be one of the defining victories for life.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood is not a popular move with voters. A record 75 percent of Americans said in a recent poll that the federal government should continue funding the family planning provider, and a Fox News poll found that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Planned Parenthood are the two most well-liked political entities in America right now. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke at the organization’s 100th anniversary gala this week, noted that the nation has hit a 30-year low in teen pregnancy and a 40-year low in unintended pregnancy thanks to increased investments in family planning through organizations like Planned Parenthood.
“I believe that anyone who is opposed to abortion should be in favor of preventing unintended pregnancy, expanding economic opportunity and fighting for policies that actually support parenthood,” Clinton said.
Republicans claim that there are enough federally qualified community health centers to absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients once it is defunded.
“For every Planned Parenthood, there are 20 federal community health centers,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a town hall in January. “They’re vastly bigger in network, there are so many more of them, and they provide these kinds of services without all of the controversy surrounding this [abortion] issue.”
The problem is, Ryan’s count includes dentists’ offices, homeless shelters, food banks, mental health clinics and cosmetic surgeons, among other providers that don’t offer women’s health and family planning services. In 2014, federally qualified health centers only provided about a third of the contraceptive services that Planned Parenthood did, according to the Congressional Research Service. And the average wait time for an appointment at those places is more than twice the wait time at local Planned Parenthood clinics.
“I hope that both people in this administration and members of Congress will begin to pay attention to 51 percent of the population of America, who are desperately concerned about their future,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, told HuffPost in an interview last week. “It is enormously frustrating to have primarily rooms full of men making policy decisions and voting on issues which they will never be impacted directly themselves, and have millions of women in this country who are not being represented.”
“This is the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. It makes it harder to prevent unintended pregnancy, harder to have a healthy pregnancy, and harder to raise a family,” Richards said after the GOP bill passed the House.
This story has been updated to reflect the passage of the GOP health care bill in the House.