Can Congress stop harassing Planned Parenthood? That would be my wish for the new year. Unfortunately, the harassment may increase in a Trump administration. But it doesn’t have to. It is within President-elect Donald Trump’s power to put a stop to it.
Past congressional attempts to defund Planned Parenthood have failed because President Obama has vetoed them. This is all part of a congressional effort to punish the healthcare provider for also providing legal abortions. Of course, no federal funds that Planned Parenthood receives go to abortion, anyway. By law, no federal money can be spent on abortion. (Which is unfair — but that’s another story.)
What Congress would essentially be doing by defunding Planned Parenthood is depriving millions of Americans — many lower-income — of health services (that have nothing to do with abortion.) Across the country, Planned Parenthood health centers provide a vast array of medical services to women as well as men— cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, family planning and contraception.
Overall, Planned Parenthood health centers serve 2.5-million patients each year. Many of these clients are low income and on Medicaid. Planned Parenthood is a certified Medicaid provider. In the state of California, alone, Planned Parenthood gets nearly 1.5-million patient visits each year. In terms of funding, that amounted to $260 million of federal reimbursements this past year in California.
Currently, Planned Parenthood clinics have the resources to see patients and provide services quickly. Getting an appointment at other private clinics that are Medicaid providers in underserved areas can take weeks.
The positions of Vice President-elect Mike Pence (the governor of Indiana) and U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, are well-known. They are both against abortion rights and have both voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
Less clear is how President-elect Trump will view efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. I would urge him to make a distinction between Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider, and Planned Parenthood, the health services provider. Planned Parenthood has been nothing less than a lifeline and safety net for people seeking crucial, noncontroversial healthcare across the country. The government should not that take that care away from millions of people. If Trump cares as deeply as he says he does about working-class Americans, then he should not take away one vital source of their healthcare.