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GOP bill would freeze federal grants to Planned Parenthood

GOP bill would freeze federal grants to Planned Parenthood
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Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would cut off a key source of Planned Parenthood’s federal dollars, setting up a new opportunity for House GOP leaders to call a vote on defunding the group.

The two-page legislation would eliminate millions of dollars in Title X family planning grants, money that Ellmers said would be reshuffled into other women’s health centers nationwide.

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"Upon passage of this legislation, funding for Planned Parenthood would be frozen and would become immediately available to health centers through a grant process," Ellmers wrote in a statement.

It would make only a dent in Planned Parenthood’s $1 billion budget, however, as the legislation only targets the Title X grants. The group could still receive most of its federal dollars through Medicaid, part of the government’s mandatory spending.

The new legislation is among several competing bills in the House, including one from Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (R-Tenn.) that would freeze all federal dollars from Planned Parenthood — both mandatory and discretionary — for one year.

Black has said she has received a stamp of approval from House GOP leadership, but aides say that GOP leaders have not yet committed to a bill as part of their defunding strategy.

"We're still talking to leadership about it and making the case for why this bill is so important, but there are other strategies that might come along," she said, specifically pointing to reconciliation and appropriations bills this fall.

Ellmers’ bill is unlike others in that it would strip Planned Parenthood only of family planning grants as part of the Title X program, which could be seen as a slightly simpler route for House GOP leaders that are looking to avert a government shutdown.

A spokeswoman for Ellmer's office said she decided to focus on Title X grants because it is directly under her jurisdiction as a member of the House Energy and Commerce's health subcommittee.

Black said while she appreciates Ellmers' effort, she remains committed to a full defunding of the organization.

"I continue to believe that the best course of action is for Congress to pass a bill addressing all federal funding streams to Planned Parenthood," she wrote in a statement to The Hill. "I believe there are more than enough lingering questions to warrant a complete halt of the money flow to this abortion giant while Congress carries out its investigations."

The bill from Ellmers, a third-term congresswoman, comes after she faced a backlash within her own party on abortion this January. Ellmers raised concerns about legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks, which ultimately prompted House GOP leaders to pull the bill.  

Whlie Black's bill calls for a one-year investigation into Planned Parenthood, Ellmers' is more specific. Hers would also require a two-year study by government auditors into the group, which has faced accusations of illegal activity as part of its fetal tissue donation program. The group has denied all such claims.

Planned Parenthood receives about $500 million from the federal government out of its roughly $1 billion annual budget. Out of its federal funding, about $60 million came from the Title X, according to a government audit in 2012.

The largest source of federal dollars is from Medicaid — six times the amount that Planned Parenthood receives from Title X funding.

Several states, including Wisconsin and Kansas, have already targeted Title X funding as a way to defund the group.

Title X funding, a 30-year-old program, is given to 4,200 family planning centers nationally. That includes Planned Parenthood sites as well as private, school-run or religiously affiliated organizations.

- Updated at 7:30 p.m.