The U.S. Justice Department recently stood behind Planned Parenthood as the state of Indiana attempts to defund them. It’s just one battle in a larger dispute between the federal government and states looking to curtail family planning access.
According to the Associated Press, the Justice Department sent a brief to U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, asking her to grant Planned Parenthood’s “request for an injunction because it blocks Medicaid recipients’ freedom to choose the provider of their choice.”
The Justice Department has sided with the chain of women’s clinics and has called Indiana’s efforts to strip Medicaid dollars from the organization “unconstitutional.” Indiana officials are defunding the organization because the clinics’ list of services includes abortions — a legal service. However, by law, the money they are denying Planned Parenthood cannot pay for abortions.
The Justice Department is the second federal agency that has defended Planned Parenthood and family planning access for Medicaid beneficiaries against Indiana’s efforts. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently told Indiana officials that their plan “will improperly bar Medicaid beneficiaries from receiving services.”
Considering the current political climate and the growing number of states aiming to restrict access to family planning services all over the country, the federal government’s willingness to defend women’s health and family planning is ever more important.
In Indiana, Planned Parenthood is fighting for $1.4 million of federal funding. According to the South Bend Tribune, “Gov. Mitch Daniels cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood May 10 as part of House Enrolled Act 1210. The bill cancels federal funding to all organizations that provide abortions to their patients.” Only four of Planned Parenthood’s 28 clinics provide abortion services in the state, and public money can only be used for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is threatened.
North Carolina’s state legislators have also denied Planned Parenthood its state and federal funding. The organization lost three sources of public money — one of which was their Title X money from the federal government. The only public money not denied to the organization was Medicaid dollars. Planned Parenthood is considering litigation, which could require federal intervention.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has also slashed millions in family planning. According to the Hackensack Chronicle, the state will suffer a “$7.5 million cut in family planning and women’s health care initiatives made last spring by Governor Christie’s administration that included slashing funds for family planning centers.”
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, “the Nashville-Davidson County Health Department [in Tennessee] … told the state Friday that it will take over $335,000 in health services that have been delivered, under contract, by Planned Parenthood for several years.” Another county in the state is attempting to do the same. They were granted a week to decide if they could take over “$748,000 in health and family planning services currently provided by Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis.”
Wisconsin is also cutting family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood. According to the Journal Sentinel, “the Joint Finance Committee, which writes the state budget, voted last month to bar organizations that provide abortions from receiving grants given to city and county health departments, community health centers and clinics for family planning.” Planned Parenthood is the only organization that falls in that category.
According to the Texas Tribune, Texas state legislators are considering a “measure [that] requires the family planning programs run by the Department of State Health Services— which treat some 220,000 women a year — to prioritize funding to state or locally-run public health clinics, then private full-service clinics, over clinics that only provide family planning and women’s health care (namely Planned Parenthood).”
In the state, Planned Parenthood receives a quarter of Health Service’s family planning funds. The organization stands to lose “millions of dollars a year, on top of the budget cuts lawmakers passed this spring that slashed more than $60 million, or roughly 60 percent, from the state’s biennial family planning budget.”
Finally, in Florida, the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have decided upon a more nuanced cut. The state’s Medicaid overhaul plan includes a provision that allows a provider to opt-out of providing family planning on “moral or religious grounds.” A state agency must get this proposal approved by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services before it can be implemented. Planned Parenthood is preparing to petition both state and federal departments to remove the provision. Florida has also cut almost $1 million in family planning for local governments.
The Guttmacher Institute recently released a series of three reports highlighting the importance of publicly subsidized women’s health services for low-income women in the United States. The reports show that marginalized populations rely heavily on services that are publicly subsidized. These programs help lower the rate of unintended pregnancies, promote maternal and infant health and save taxpayer dollars in the long run.