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Republican Senate bill calls for defunding of Planned Parenthood

“It makes absolutely no sense to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, on Sunday’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. The following day, the Congressional Budget Office released its score of the Senate’s health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, which confirmed that the federal defunding provision in the legislation would affect only one organization: Planned Parenthood.

“There are already longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortions, so that’s not what this debate is about,” Collins said. “Planned Parenthood is an important provider of health care services, including family planning and cancer screenings for millions of Americans, particularly women, and they should be allowed to choose the health care provider they want.” Because of this and other concerns in the current legislation, Senator Collins stated that she would vote no on “motion to proceed” for the bill to be brought to the Senate floor. Enough Republicans were of the same opinion that the bill was delayed for even a consideration of a vote until after the July 4 recess.

The CBO projected that the Senate health care bill will increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million by 2026, that 15 percent of people who reside in “areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations” would lose access to care, and that “services that help women avoid becoming pregnant would be affected.” “More than half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in rural or otherwise medically underserved areas, and women who live there often don’t have another health care center to turn to,” said Erica Sackin, director of political communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “They will go without care. We saw this in 2011 in Texas when Planned Parenthood was defunded there and 30,000 women went without health care, and during that time the maternal mortality rate doubled. If Congress passes this bill, it will do untold harm; one in five women have relied on Planned Parenthood for their health care.” These closings will impact the most vulnerable populations. "Our clients don't frequently do regular check-ups with general care practitioners,” said Glenaan O’Neil, director of the Lone Star Victims Advocacy Project, who works with immigrant women in rural Texas. “They go to OBGYNs usually for birth control or because they need care during pregnancy. They're all living at or below the poverty level. They can't afford other health care options. Without [Planned Parenthood] clinics, our clients would likely end up without much-needed prenatal care, and would have even fewer possible avenues to reach out for help to escape abuse. My understanding is that the maternal mortality rates in Texas are the highest in the developed world, and will only get higher if these clinics are done away with." However, the long debate and media attention around defunding Planned Parenthood has had some positive effects. “It has been an opportunity to educate people about what Planned Parenthood actually does,” said Sackin. “This legislation only affects preventive care because the Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from being used for abortion already. We’ve seen an outpouring of people wanting to share their stories of how Planned Parenthood has helped them. At the end of the day, Planned Parenthood is a health care provider and we don’t turn anyone away, no matter their ability to pay or their immigration status, no matter what. This bill is a political attack on women’s health care.” 

Although the Senate bill won’t be voted on this week, the Republican leadership will be working to make changes to get support from enough senators to take a vote later in July.

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