Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is trying, once again, to defund Planned Parenthood.
ThinkProgress reports that Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, both Republicans, have introduced an amendment to a Senate appropriations bill that covers the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, that seeks to block federal funding for clinics that perform abortions. The amendment makes exceptions for clinics that perform abortions in order to save a mother’s life, or in cases of rape and incest. Paul called the amendment “our chance to turn our words into action, stand up for the sanctity of life, and speak out for the most innocent among us that have no voice.”
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is: Paul introduced similar legislation in 2015, and Republicans have long been determined to axe funding for Planned Parenthood in their efforts to undermine basic access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion and birth control.
It’s also important to note that the Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal funding for abortion in most instances, and Planned Parenthood, the largest reproductive health and family planning services provider in the country, does not receive direct funding from the federal government. Rather, the organization is reimbursed for services it provides to low-income patients—like breast exams, STI screenings, and birth control—via Medicaid and the Title X family planning program.
Congress has continuously tried to choke Planned Parenthood from any of these reimbursable funds, and in May, the Trump administration announced a domestic gag rule, withholding federal funds from any facility that promotes abortion or refers patients to abortion providers. Trump officials have made their intentions clear, all the way from Donald Trump to Vice President Mike Pence and down to the Department of Health and Human Services, that they will, as Pence has said, end abortion “in our time.”
While House Speaker Paul Ryan has claimed that “For every Planned Parenthood, there are 20 federal community health centers,” suggesting that reproductive healthcare will not be impacted by withdrawing funding, most health centers don’t offer these essential health services. Ending subsidies for Planned Parenthood means that clinics will shut down, cutting off thousands of disproportionately low-income and people of color from essential care. We have already seen the effects of such bills: In May of 2017, Planned Parenthood shut down a third of its Iowa clinics as a result of an appropriations bill that ended the Medicaid family planning network waiver. “What is happening in Iowa is what we could see across the country if Congress passes this dangerous law to defund Planned Parenthood. This is hardest on people who already face barriers to accessing health care — especially people of color, young people, people with low to moderate incomes, and people who live in rural areas,” Planned Parenthood’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley told Jezebel in 2017.
This particular amendment, however, is not likely to succeed. Lee’s spokesperson Conn Carroll told Axios that Senate leadership has “not yet” determined whether the amendment, a so-called “poison pill” that could derail or delay negotiations with Democrats on the rest of the package, will come to a vote. “What we are trying to do is move our bills, and that could be a spoiler,” Republican Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Shelby said on Monday.