Cooper: Weep not for Planned Parenthood

Cooper: Weep not for Planned Parenthood

August 21st, 2019 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Protesters for women's abortion rights rally in May on the Alabama Capitol steps to protest a law passed making abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

Photo by Butch Dill

Planned Parenthood is planning to stick to its guns. We applaud the organization for doing so.

Let us explain.

On Monday, Planned Parenthood said it could not go along with new Trump administration rules that said organizations that accept federal family planning grants cannot directly provide individuals with abortion referrals.

Given that, the organization said it will not accept part of the $286 million in taxpayer money from what is known as the Title X program, which provides funding for birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

In other words, it wants to keep offering abortion referrals, and offering abortions in the same facilities where it also offers birth control and other services. Offering "a clear financial and physical separation" of the two also is a new administration requirement.

To stick to its guns, Planned Parenthood — the largest abortion provider in the U.S. — is only eschewing about $60 million in grants, which amounts to about 11% of the $564 million it receives annually in federal funding, according to the organization's 2017-2018 report. Further, the amount is less than 4% of its annual $1.66 billion in total revenue.

That's big business.

For us, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, had the most ironic comment of the day.

"Losing access to care," she said, "puts lives at risk. Period."

On the other hand, "Abortion is neither health care nor family planning, and taxpayer dollars should not support abortion," Jeanne Mancini, March for Life president, said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood recently asked the 9th Circuit of Appeals to freeze the Trump administration rule, but on Friday the court declined to do so. It noted that the administration's restrictions were a "reasonable interpretation" of the Title X statute as well as the federal government's interest in preventing taxpayer dollars from funding or subsidizing abortions, as required by the Hyde Amendment.

Nevertheless, several cases involving the rule are still pending, and a panel of judges will review the matter on Sept. 23 and decide to either allow it to stand or strike it down.

Abortion foes hope the funding now can be directed to community health centers that do not perform abortions or refer women for them. They outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 20-1, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Despite Planned Parenthood leaving the program voluntarily, its spokespersons and abortion-supporting politicians sprang to the fore, dragging out the usual, tired phrases about the action hitting "hardest people struggling to make ends meet," preventing "patients from getting full and accurate information" and patients being "left with nowhere to turn."

But, actually, it will allow the organization's use of the rest of its more than a billion dollars in any way it chooses, freeing it from government regulations in the specific program and concentrating on people it believes are "struggling to make ends meet."

Mia Heck of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health said Planned Parenthood knew the rules when it accepted the Title X money.

"Some grantees are now blaming the government for their own actions — having chosen to accept the grant while failing to comply with the regulations that accompany it," she said, "and they are abandoning their obligations to serve their patients under the program."

We believe Planned Parenthood and its ilk accepted the grant money because they never imagined a court would rule against them. Now that the day has come, the organization is scrambling.

Although abortions have dropped in the U.S. every year but three since 1991, the Trump administration has championed pro-life issues like no administration in years, if ever. It, among other things, appointed justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who one day could return the decision to have an abortion to the states, expanded exemptions on the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate, allowed states to cut off family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and investigated Planned Parenthood to see if was selling fetal tissue for profit (the organization was said to receive only "reasonable payments" for the costs of such actions).

Given the administration's court success when matters are adjudicated by Obama- and Clinton-appointed judges (and this one may or may not be), we have no idea how the matter might be decided in September. But we see a rational distinction between family planning grants (that include the likes of birth control information) and referrals for abortions.

Unfortunately, we don't see this loss of funds as much of an impediment for Planned Parenthood; the organization still will be offering abortions and referring women to clinics at locations which don't offer abortions. But at least for this particular program, taxpayers' hands won't be bloody in the process.

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