When Tennessee's state legislature voted to defund Planned Parenthood, anti-contraception lawmakers thought that their long statewide nightmare of affordable birth control and low-income women's access to nonjudgmental sexual health care was over. Good riddance to bad rubbish, that's what I say! But then, the Obama administration went right on ahead and continued to provide federal grants to the health care provider without first consulting Tennessee state lawmakers, who think they should have the power to play man-to-man defense on Planned Parenthood, making sure that it never gets any money, ever. Unfortunately for Tennessee, and for other states who have tried similar stunts, defunding Planned Parenthood is much more difficult than simply passing a law.
Here's some boring, but necessary background: the federal government's Title X program was signed into law in 1970, and it's the only federal grant program that provides funding to family planning services. This is because, despite the Catholic church's incessant whining, contraception is a public good — it leads to smaller, healthier families, healthier mothers, healthier children, fewer unplanned pregnancies, and reduced taxpayer burden associated with unplanned pregnancies (unplanned pregnancies currently cost US taxpayers an estimated $11 billion annually).
Title X is administered federally, which means that states don't have the authority to dictate where the funding can't go, no matter how icky lawmakers there think sluts are. And judges, for the most part, have agreed that it's not constitutional for states to exclude Planned Parenthood from its federal Title X funds. North Carolina tried using the words "Planned Parenthood" in its budget, as in "Planned Parenthood isn't getting any Title X money nyah nyah nyah," but a judge declared that law unconstitutional. Undaunted, they returned this year with another budget that defunded Planned Parenthood, this one declaring that no private health care providers were eligible for Title X. That budget was vetoed by the state's Democratic governor and then overrode by the legislature, but federal Title X guidelines specify that both public and private health care providers are allowed to apply for Title X funds, so, in all likelihood, that wrong headed attempt to defund Planned Parenthood won't work, either. Kansas has tried similar tactics by declaring in its state budget that no federal Title X funding can go to abortion providers, language that's been struck down twice. Tennessee has already been reprimanded for attempting to single out Planned Parenthood in the past.
So it makes no sense that Tennessee conservatives are crying foul over the federal government's decision to award a family planning grant to Planned Parenthood in the state — they don't have the authority to make the decisions they're acting like they have the right to make, which sort of seems to be the theme of the Republican party in 2012.
This hasn't stopped them from declaring that the Obama administration is supporting abortions (no Title X funding can go to fund abortions, nor could it ever) and undermining state authority, even though Planned Parenthood of the Greater Memphis Region is currently getting half of the money it received in years prior to provide family planning services on a sliding scale to patients.
The President of Susan B. Anthony's List, a group that seeks to get anti-abortion rights women elected to public office (it's like Bizarro EMILY's List) huffed,
The stakes for pro-life Tennesseans in the upcoming elections have just been heightened. We've done good work here in Tennessee electing pro-life majorities to the Legislature and Congress. But all of that can apparently be undone by a single official unless we have a pro-life president and a pro-life senate solidly committed to defending the weakest and most vulnerable of all.
Pro-life now apparently means anti-contraception. Got it. Won't someone please think of the vulnerable imaginary future zygotes?