After Republican efforts in Washington to defund Planned Parenthood fizzled this month, several states are now in a race to become the first to strip the organization of all taxpayer money.
Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Texas are among the states who are taking up the fight that the GOP-led House couldn’t finish when the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate risked a government shutdown to protect Planned Parenthood from Republican knives.
And unlike Washington, where Democrats still control two thirds of government, Republicans are flexing their muscles in states where they made historic gains in legislatures and governors’ mansions in last fall’s midterm elections. With their new power, Republicans have escalated their fight against abortion and its providers — particularly Planned Parenthood — alarming abortion-rights supporters.
“I think we’re in the midst of a wave this year of activism by social conservatives and they not only don’t like abortion, they don’t like family planning,” said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state legislation for the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization that supports abortion rights.
Following a Senate vote earlier this month in Indiana, the House on Wednesday voted 66-32 to cut off $3 million in federal money the state distributes to the family planning group. The bill is now in Gov. Mitch Daniels’ hands, and some say he risks losing $4 million in federal Medicaid money if he signs it into law, a claim that is in dispute. Planned Parenthood officials are urging Daniels to veto the bill or face a court challenge to the defunding.
In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed in his 2012 budget stripping Planned Parenthood of $300,000 in federal family planning funds and redirecting it to state and local health clinics. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the proposed budget in the coming weeks. If passed, it will take effect on July 1.
In North Carolina, the proposed state budget includes a ban on state contracts with Planned Parenthood for teen pregnancy prevention and family planning that would cause the organization to lose $473,000.
States currently subsidize Planned Parenthood with a variety of government funding, including Medicaid and local taxes. These bills would eliminate all streams of government funding.
But Mary Kahn, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said states that try to restrict Medicaid beneficiaries freedom of choice for family planning services “risk losing federal support.”
“States cannot restrict Medicaid beneficiaries freedom of choice of family planning services even if the state is running a managed care program,” she said.
In New Hampshire, where Republicans took control of the Legislature in November, the House is considering a bill that would cut $700,000 in public money state sends to Planned Parenthood. The legislation bans all state contracts with any service provider that offers abortions.