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Planned Parenthood Seeks Survival in Trump Era

Now that the Republicans have gained control over all federal branches of government, the future of Planned Parenthood is uncertain. The Republicans could take measures to limit, defund, or discontinue the service.

The Hill reports:

Planned Parenthood is grappling with how to survive in the era of Donald Trump.

Republicans have long targeted the healthcare group for providing abortions, threatening to shut down the government if federal funding wasn’t pulled from the organization.

Now that the GOP has majorities in the House and Senate and controls the White House, it has its best chance in years to win a defunding battle.

Planned Parenthood officials recognize the serious threat but say they are eager for the fight.

“We’re in the middle of a moment that is calling for us to take action in a way we have never taken action before, and we’re ready,” Kelly Robinson, Planned Parenthood’s deputy national organization director, said to supporters last week on Facebook Live.

“We won’t back down, we won’t be silenced, and we will not let these politicians attack our health and rights without a fight.”

The fight is expected to stretch out over the next few years and to play a role in the 2018 midterm elections — when Democrats and Republicans alike could use votes for Planned Parenthood as a campaign weapon.

But the initial fight will be over defunding.

While Obama vetoed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood a year ago, if a bill gets to Trump, he is expected to sign it.

Defunding efforts also have the enthusiastic support of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

During his time in Congress, Pence repeatedly introduced legislation that would ban Planned Parenthood, and other abortion-providing entities, from receiving federal funding.

One bill passed the House in 2011, though it was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Hyde amendment, a rider first passed in 1976, prevents certain federal funds such as Medicaid from being used for abortions with a few exceptions.

So Planned Parenthood is trying to stop the bill in the Senate.

“We’ve talked to every member of Congress who we think has an open mind,” said Donna Crane, vice president of policy for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL).

She declined to name specific lawmakers the group is targeting, though GOP centrist Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have publicly shown reservations about supporting the measure if it includes the Planned Parenthood provision. Neither have indicated how they will vote.

Crane said she refuses to “accept the premise” that the GOP will succeed in defunding Planned Parenthood.

“We are going to throw everything we have at these attempts,” she said. “I think every member of Congress, ever respectable member of Congress, is thinking hard about how they will vote.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said defunding Planned Parenthood would be included in a reconciliation bill repealing ObamaCare, though he hasn’t provided further details.

Senate Republicans could pass the legislation without Democratic support — as long as at least 50 GOP members vote in favor of it. Reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered, weakening the Democratic minority.

Democratic lawmakers are heaping pressure on Republicans, arguing that defunding Planned Parenthood could leave millions of low-income women and men without access to services like cancer screenings and STD testing.

“The focus has been on getting Republicans to vote against it and even in the Senate right now, we’re beginning to see a number of Republicans who are against defunding,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the ranking member on the House’s select panel investigating Planned Parenthood.

While federal funding can’t be used to pay for abortion, Republicans argue money given to Planned Parenthood essentially subsidizes the procedure.

Ryan hasn’t specified what funding avenues Republicans want to cut off.

Planned Parenthood gets their federal funding from two sources: Medicaid reimbursements and Title X grants, which are awarded to clinics that provide family planning and preventative healthcare resources.

A special investigative panel formed by Republicans recommended in a report last week that Planned Parenthood lose access to both its Medicaid reimbursements and Title X funds.

One bill, proposed by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) last week, would place a one-year moratorium on all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, its affiliates and associated clinics until the organization certifies that it will not offer abortions or give funding to entities that do. It would also dedicate an additional $235 million to community health centers that don’t provide abortions.

It’s not clear if the Planned Parenthood provision in the reconciliation bill will follow the same path, but Black introduced the same bill last year, and it passed the House.

The measure has 127 co-sponsors — all Republicans — including Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (Texas) and several members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“This is about promoting true women’s healthcare over elective abortion and honoring the conscience rights of American taxpayers who don’t want their tax dollars used to fund a scandal-ridden abortion enterprise,” Black said in a statement.

While Black’s bill specifies that all federal funding would be cut off, previous bills passed by the House, including one passed in 2011, would have disallowed any abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, from receiving Title X funds.

That could be detrimental to the organization.

Roughly 40 percent, or $553 million, of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes from government health services grants and reimbursements.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood know it is under siege, and the organization has increased its fundraising.

Planned Parenthood reports that donations are up 40-fold since the election, while NARAL says it has seen an “unprecedented significant spike” in donations, though it would not provide specific numbers.

Planned Parenthood has planned nearly 300 events in 47 states that will include rallies, marches, letter-writing campaigns and other activities over the next few months. Its allies are fundraising off attempts by the GOP to defund the organization.

The funds could be used in midterm battles of 2018 — when Democrats will be seeking to make gains in Congress with a Republican in the White House. The party faces a difficult battleground in the Senate, where it is defending 23 seats, many of them in states won by Trump.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

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