Republican state representatives in North Carolina voted to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of the state budget Wednesday morning, ensuring that a provision to strip all federal and state money from Planned Parenthood will take effect on July 1. North Carolina is now the third state, after Indiana and Kansas, to defund the family planning provider because it also provides abortions.
Planned Parenthood of North Carolina (PPNC), which has nine clinics across the state, provides affordable birth control, preventative health care and family planning services to over 25,000 men and women. Without the $434,000 a year it usually receives in state and federal funds, Planned Parenthood says it will now have to axe its teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent parenting programs and force its low-income patients to pay out of pocket.
"The biggest impact is gonna be on the men and women we serve," said Melissa Reed, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems. "There are 12- to 14-week waits for women to get into the health department for birth control or breast cancer screenings, but we can see patients the very same week. The health department relies on Planned Parenthood to fill that gap, and now we will be prohibited from serving as that essential safety net provider."
PPNC receives funds through the Title X Family Planning Program and state-funded birth control programs as a way to provide discounted pap tests, cancer screenings and birth control for low-income, uninsured patients. The Hyde Amendment prevents state and federal money from being used to pay for abortions.
Unlike Indiana, which blocked Planned Parenthood's ability to contract with Medicaid, North Carolina clinics will continue to be able to serve Medicaid recipients. It's the low-income, uninsured patients who don't qualify for Medicaid that will now be falling through the cracks, Reed said, since PPNC will no longer be able to offer them the same low-cost services.
Conservative state lawmakers have been flogging Planned Parenthood for its association with abortions this past week during debates over the defunding bill and another bill that would restrict access to abortions. Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Emerald Isle) told her colleagues on the House Floor a tearful story about her nephew and his girlfriend's experience with Planned Parenthood 14 years ago.
"She went to Planned Parenthood, asked them what her choices were," she said. "They told her she would have a deformed baby because of her drug use, her only option was abortion."
"He went with her to what she describes as a very dark house. In that very dark house, a nurse attended to her. My nephew asked the nurse if she could at least see the ultrasound. The nurse said, 'I can't do that, I'll get fired.'"
McElroy later admitted that the incident happened in Georgia, not North Carolina, and that the "dark house" where the abortion occurred was actually not a Planned Parenthood clinic. The family planning provider estimates that abortions account for less than 3 percent of the services it provides.
According to a recent poll, 57 percent of North Carolina voters oppose the measure to defund Planned Parenthood and teen pregnancy prevention programs, and Reed said people have already started sending donations to keep PPNC afloat.
"Beginning at 7:30 a.m. this morning, we had donations coming in," she told HuffPost. "North Carolinians really support Planned Parenthood and are stepping up to support our efforts."
Planned Parenthood of Indiana received an unprecedented $116,000 in donations from across the world after it was defunded in May, allowing it to continue serving its Medicaid patients for more than a month after the bill took effect.
Reed said PPNC is now considering all options -- including litigation against the state -- to hang onto its low-income patients. A similar lawsuit is currently being heard in Indiana.
"They are using the budget to punish Planned Parenthood for other services we provide, such as abortion care, which does not even use any of this money," Reed said. "They can't legally do that."
Like the House, the North Carolina Senate is expected to vote to override the veto. That vote is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.