Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would defund Planned Parenthood, adding his state to a list of four others that have pending bills to strip public funds from the family planning provider.
Metcalfe's bill, the Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act, would put health care providers that offer abortion services at the bottom of the priority list for state funding. The anti-abortion activist group Susan B. Anthony List and the Alliance Defense Fund co-wrote the bill, which closely resembles the one Arizona lawmakers used to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this year.
Planned Parenthood clinics receive a substantial percentage of their money through state and federal government funding streams, including Medicaid and Titles V, X and XX. The clinics use the funds to offer breast cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, pap smears, maternity care and other medical services for low-income and uninsured patients. None of this money can legally be used to pay for abortions, which make up less than 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood performs, but anti-abortion activists regularly make the argument that any money the organization receives will indirectly fund abortions.
Mallory Quigley, communications director for SBA List, called the bill an "upgrade" for women's health services because it directs money away from Planned Parenthood clinics and toward hospitals and other kinds of family planning clinics that don't provide abortions.
"The emphasis is on comprehensive whole woman care, so instead of them going to Planned Parenthood to receive one type of service, they will now be going to qualified health clinics where they can get mammograms, treatment for hypertension and depression, dental care, all these things Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide," Quigley said. "All it is is an upgrade of women's health care without any additional cost to the taxpayer."
The problem with cutting funding from a major nationwide family-planning provider is that many Planned Parenthood patients live in low-income, rural and medically underserved areas where there generally aren't other viable providers of the same types of services. For instance, Tennessee lawmakers cut Title X funding from Planned Parenthood in 2011, and that law has left many former patients unable to afford health care.
"In the past our clients would qualify for services for free, but now we have to charge them a fee," said Jeff Teague, president of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee. "It's put a burden on people, obviously. We've seen a ten percent decrease in patient numbers, and we've worked very closely with health department to see if they've seen a corresponding increase, and they have not. We have a serious concern that there are a number of women not receiving or delaying care, which is a bad situation either way."
In Pennsylvania, Republicans hold the majority in the state House of Representatives and Senate. Gov. Tom Corbett (R), during a debate over a mandatory ultrasound bill that would have required all women seeking abortions to receive one, said that women who didn't want the procedure should just "close [their] eyes."
Six states enacted legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011: Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee. District judges in all of those states except Wisconsin have since determined that those laws were unconstitutional and have temporarily blocked them.
So far this year, Arizona successfully stripped funds from Planned Parenthood, and legislators dropped similar proposed laws in Iowa and New Hampshire. Maine cut $400,000 for family planning services out of the state budget this week, and five other states -- Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania -- are currently considering bills that would directly defund Planned Parenthood.
A Planned Parenthood spokesperson estimates that total state funding cuts could leave well over 350,000 patients without health services. That estimate does not include Pennsylvania, because the numbers of patients the bill would affect are not yet available.
If presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney follows through on his promise to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood funding entirely, the number of affected patients could climb to five million.
"What’s happening in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kansas is a preview of what would happen in all 50 states if Mitt Romney is elected," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "Planned Parenthood won't let politics interfere with the health care that one in five women in America relies on at some point in her life. Planned Parenthood doors are open, and they’ll be open tomorrow."
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that a bill under consideration in Pennsylvania would have required women seeking abortions to receive transvaginal ultrasounds, but the bill in question didn't specifically mandate that form of the procedure.