Efforts to cut funding for Planned Parenthood at state level fall short

Social conservatives launched a new and sweeping effort last year to use state laws to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

It's not working.

ADVERTISEMENT
The push got a lot of attention when it began, in the wake of conservatives' equally aggressive — and also unsuccessful — attempt to defund Planned Parenthood through Congress's spending bills.

So far, six states have passed laws that seek to defund Planned Parenthood on their own — and the courts have blocked all six.

The most recent loss came in Indiana, which was also the first state to pass an anti-Planned Parenthood low. Indiana's 2011 statute set the tone for the others that followed: It said funding for the state's Medicaid program could not flow to healthcare providers that also provide abortion.

The approach initially seemed to pose a legitimate threat to Planned Parenthood because Medicaid is a joint state-federal program. But courts have said the states cannot deny women access to providers who meet the federal requirements to qualify for Medicaid — and Planned Parenthood does.

“[The] ruling means politics won’t interfere with the health care that more than 9,000 women in Indiana rely on," the Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in a statement after this week's Indiana ruling. "Ending funding for birth control, well-woman exams, or cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers is badly out of touch with the needs of American women and families. That is why the public stands with Planned Parenthood, just as the court did today."

Courts have all or part of blocked similar laws in Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Cutting off Planned Parenthood, a judge in Arizona wrote, would harm women "in areas underserved by other health care providers who may have difficulty securing alternative care."

Overall, the losses in the courts are the third setback in a three-pronged effort to restrict Planned Parenthood. Conservatives also began pushing private groups to cut off their grant money to Planned Parenthood after failing to cut off the organization in Congress.

They briefly succeeded when Susan G. Komen for the Cure changed its grant criteria to exclude Planned Parenthood. But the move sparked a backlash that forced Komen to restore the funding and was also an enormous boon to Planned Parenthood's fundraising.

The exception at the state level may be Texas, which is trying to reconstitute part of its healthcare program so that it can exclude Planned Parenthood. Texas had tried to cut Planned Parenthood out of its Women's Health Program, which received some federal funding, but was blocked.

The state is trying to rebuild its program without federal Medicaid money and keep Planned Parenthood out. A federal appeals court on Friday refused to grant a new hearing in Planned Parenthood's challenge to the Texas law — a win for abortion-rights opponents.

“Governor Perry, the pro-life Texas state legislature, as well as our friends at Texas Right to Life deserve much praise," the Susan B. Anthony List said in a statement. "Even after the Obama Administration carried out its threat and cut funding for Texas’ Women’s Health Program because the state defunded abortion providers, Texas refused to yield. Governor Perry vowed to keep the Women’s Health Program, which serves vulnerable women, fully funded using state dollars. Texas has shown the rest of America what it means to be both pro-woman and pro-life.”