At a clown car of a press conference this afternoon, nine Republican senators vied to show the American public who hates abortion the worst, vowing to defund Planned Parenthood so hard, you bet. By that, I guess, they mean taking away Title X funding, the federal money used for family planning services. Planned Parenthood does not ever use Title X to pay for abortions.
In the wake of three heavily edited attack videos by the Center for Medical Progress, Iowa Senator and Pig Castrator in Chief Joni Ernst introduced a bill yesterday to “defund Planned Parenthood” as she keeps saying, repeatedly and without elaboration, almost as though she and her eight co-authors have very little idea what they’re talking about. She refused to say whether she supports the use of fetal tissue — which she called “baby tissue” — in medical research, saying that’s not the point of the bill.
The full text of Ernst’s proposed bill, which you can read here, calls for federal funding to be taken away from Planned Parenthood, but no other facility that offers “relevant diagnostic laboratory and radiology services, well-child care, prenatal and postpartum care, immunization, family planning services including contraception, sexually transmitted disease testing, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and referrals.”
Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in Title X funding; about $102 million of that is believed to come from the federal government, and the other $400 million from the states. The nonprofit says they serve 2.7 million people each year.
At a press conference today, Ernst and eight other senators — : Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Senator and presidential wannabe Rand Paul, Tim Scott of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, John Thune of South Dakota, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, James Lankford of Oklahoma — said that the women who use Planned Parenthood would have no trouble finding somewhere else to go.
“Women who do actually have legitimate healthcare needs other than abortion are taken care of in this legislation,” Cornyn said. “It will actually increase women’s access to primary care.”
“What we’d like to see,” added Ernst, “are those dollars being directed to hospitals, community health centers that offer women’s healthcare alternatives.”
Oh, interesting. Has anyone ever tried that before? Yes, actually, John Cornyn’s home state of Texas, which cut the state’s family planning program by more than two-thirds in 2011 to try to hurt Planned Parenthood. The result: more than 60 family planning clinics closed, none of which provided abortions. Texas hoarded roughly $2.3 million in their remaining federal family planning money while that happened, then asked the feds for permission to spend it on something else. Eventually, they restored the funding to the people who were actually spending it on reproductive health, including Planned Parenthood.
A reporter at the press conference pointed out to Cornyn that Texas hadn’t done so well with exactly what he is now proposing at the federal level. He maybe didn’t hear her correctly, responding, “In my state there are eight times as many healthcare centers as Planned Parenthoods. I have ever confidence they can absorb the legitimate healthcare needs of women for purposes we all agree on.” Except they couldn’t and didn’t.
This bill will likely pass the Senate, but there’s no chance President Obama will ever sign it into law. But it’s a great photo op for people running for reelection and, most especially, people heading into their first Republican primary debate next week:
This afternoon’s full press conference is here, if you’d like to start drinking early:
Also today, the Texas Senate’s Health and Human Services committee held a showy hearing “investigating” whether Planned Parenthood is indeed profiting from the sale of fetuses. They mostly did that by questioning a panel of “experts,” all of whom were anti-abortion activists, including one-time Planned Parenthood worker Abby Johnson, who’s repeatedly sued PP in a series of incredibly fishy lawsuits that have gone nowhere.
Never waste a crisis, right? Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says his office has obtained even more undercover videos. Per the Associated Press, “Paxton would not divulge details or discuss how his office got the footage, which has not been publicly released.”
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Screengrab via YouTube. The full sign on the podium reads “Fund Women’s Health, Not Planned Parenthood”