The fight over Planned Parenthood funding is shaping up to be one of the most controversial and misinformation-filled areas of the health reform debate — again.
And just before the Senate released their version of the health bill Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) schooled her fellow lawmakers on what federal funding does and doesn’t pay for when it comes to abortion.
“I am sick of coming down to the Senate floor to explain to Republicans what Planned Parenthood does,” she said in an impassioned speech from the Senate floor Wednesday. “I am sick of explaining it provides millions of women with birth control, cancer screenings, and STI tests every year. I am sick of pointing out again and again that federal dollars do not fund abortion services at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else.”
She’s right. The federal government hasn’t been directly paying for abortions for four decades because of a controversial law called the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976. It’ll only cover abortions in the case of rape, incest, or when a pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.
Under Obamacare, private health insurance plans on the Obamacare exchanges could pay for elective abortions — but they couldn't use money from federal tax credits and subsidies to cover those costs. (States could also pass laws prohibiting health insurers from covering elective abortions.)
So most of the federal funding that flows to Planned Parenthood indeed pays for things like cancer screenings and routine medical care in the form of reimbursements through Medicaid. Not abortions.
“Speaker Ryan called this ‘mean’ bill ‘pro-life,’ but this is just the biggest political play of all,” Warren said. “Calling something ‘pro-life’ won’t keep women from dying from back-alley abortions. It won’t help them pay for the cancer screenings that could save their lives. ... The ‘pro-life’ label is the Republicans playing politics with women’s lives.”
In the House version of the GOP health reform bill, there are a bunch of provisions that bar abortion coverage, including prohibiting federal dollars from going toward a plan that includes abortion coverage and barring reimbursement for Planned Parenthood under Medicaid. The Senate version of the bill is also expected to defund Planned Parenthood.
In essence, that means that if a woman has Medicaid as her health insurance plan, she can’t go to Planned Parenthood for her health care and get those services covered. Planned Parenthood would no longer be able to be reimbursed for these services.
That’s why Planned Parenthood has been calling the GOP’s American Health Care Act “the worst bill for women’s health in a generation.”
Without receiving Medicaid dollars, it’ll be difficult for Planned Parenthood clinics to stay afloat, since three-quarters of the public dollars spent on family planning in this country are from Medicaid. And right now, 2.5 million people rely on Planned Parenthood for a range of health care services, like those cancer screenings and STI tests Warren talked about.