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Planned Parenthood Can’t Be Defunded

How much money do you think Planned Parenthood gets each year from the federal budget?

Write that number down because I think you’re going to be surprised by the actual answer.  The answer will probably either be higher or lower than your expectations.  I think your expectations say something about how you feel about Planned Parenthood; what you think its worth.

So… have your number written down?  Scroll a little bit for the answer.








The answer is zero.  Planned Parenthood receives zero dollars from the federal budget.  You cannot “defund” Planned Parenthood because it is not funded in the first place.  It is not a line item in the budget.  It is not like the NEA which was appropriated almost $148 million in the 2016 budget.  It is not like Homeland Security which received about $41.2 billion in the 2016 budget.  Planned Parenthood is not in the budget.

Planned Parenthood is a clinic.  It takes a lot lower income patients because it was set up as a safety net in underserved or rural communities.  But it’s just that — a clinic.  No different from any other medical provider EXCEPT that unlike your private doctor or your local hospital, it has a reputation for providing abortions.  Your private doctor and your local hospital also likely provide abortions, but that is not how you think about your private doctor or local hospital.

Sit with that a minute: If you believe your doctor is “good” and Planned Parenthood is “bad” but both provide abortions, then this is really about economics and class.

When I heard that Planned Parenthood was going to be defunded, I assumed that meant that Planned Parenthood would have their funding removed from the budget.  So colour me surprised when I found out that Planned Parenthood gets zero dollars in the budget.  Yes, my initial number was not the actual zero.

How is Planned Parenthood connected to taxpayer dollars?  The same way every private doctor or local hospital is connected to taxpayer dollars: Patients on Medicaid instead of private insurance.  In other words, a patient goes to Planned Parenthood OR a private doctor for a Pap smear.  In both cases, the office (Planned Parenthood or your private doctor) submits for reimbursement.  If the patient has Medicaid, the office submits to Medicaid.  If the patient has private insurance, the office submits to private insurance.  Medicaid or private insurance reimburses the doctor for payment not covered by the patient.  This is the way all insurance works, simplified.

(We don’t need to get into the fact that doctors ask for X amount and insurance companies give them Y amount.  Or fight the charge.  Or… you get the picture because you’ve dealt with insurance at some point.)

So Planned Parenthood gets reimbursed through Medicaid because a large percentage of their patients use Medicaid.  The government knows this.  They cannot tell a clinic or private doctor or hospital that is following the law that they can’t practice medicine but they can make laws that make it impossible for them to be reimbursed for services.

The CBO points out that there is really only one entity in the United States that fits the criteria for this part of the law, and that is Planned Parenthood:

For a one-year period following enactment, the legislation would prevent federal funds from being made available to an entity (including its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, and clinics) if it is:

  • A nonprofit organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the code;
  • An essential community provider that is primarily engaged in providing family planning and reproductive health services and related medical care;
  • An entity that provides abortions—except in instances in which the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger; and
  • An entity that had expenditures under the Medicaid program that exceeded $350 million in fiscal year 2014.

CBO expects that, according to those criteria, only Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates and clinics would be affected. Most federal funds received by such entities come from payments for services provided to enrollees in states’ Medicaid programs.

Do you get it now?  The new health care bill states that if you are a nonprofit that provides reproductive health services AND provides abortions AND was reimbursed over $350 million in 2014 through Medicaid then you won’t be able to get reimbursed through Medicaid for the new budget year.

So think about whether there is anyone else out there that is a nonprofit (a community health clinic, let’s say) that also provides reproductive health services (okay, still with you) and also provides abortions (okay, they’re legal so that could happen, too) and also got back over $350 million in reimbursements in 2014.  Oh… wait… it won’t affect that community clinic because it’s small and only serves a few thousand people.

This health care bill is like looking at the person you don’t like and describing them, making sure to make your description super specific so no one else could possibly fit the same description.

It is completely reasonable if you want to vote with your wallet and not patron Planned Parenthood.  You do not have to go there in the same way that I do not have to shop at certain stores or eat at certain restaurants.  It’s a decision I make due to the policies of that business.  It is completely unreasonable to say that no one can patron Planned Parenthood (or a store or restaurant) because you do not like it.  As long as abortion is legal in the US, abortions will be performed.

Unless you are willing to also shut down all private doctors or hospitals that perform abortions, protesting Planned Parenthood is a protest against a clinic, not a service.  I don’t think lawmakers are willing to lose their private doctor or not have hospitals to go to in an emergency.  But they totally are willing to go against people who need Medicaid in order to make their point about abortion.

Because 79% of people who use Planned Parenthood have “incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.”  So make no mistake: this is using the most vulnerable in society to make a point about abortion.

If you feel okay with that, keep on keeping on in making America great again.  But if you look down at that slip of paper where you wrote that initial number and feel confused because the media led you to believe that Planned Parenthood is getting beaucoup bucks from the federal government and using it to give abortions (which they can’t due to the Hyde amendment), it may be time for you to get involved.

Call your representative. THE VOTE IS TODAY, but even if this bill doesn’t pass, we all know that lawmakers will try this again and again. So please let me know if you want to help Planned Parenthood, and I’ll add you to a listserve where you can learn how you can make a difference.

how planned parenthood works


1 a { 03.23.17 at 11:17 am }

Amen! I had to send my Rep a long, rambling email about how picking on Planned Parenthood was vitriolic and unfair to the women of lower income in the areas surrounding our more affluent district. I’m sure he won’t care because of the bigger picture of “Get Rid Of Obamacare!” Good thing I had to end and send, or I would have gone on a tirade about how they’ve had 7 f-ing years to come up with a better plan and they did not. Sigh. I’ll be sharing this everywhere. 🙂

2 Beth { 03.23.17 at 11:56 am }

I called my rep about this (I had done some research and learned what you did) and got back a condescending email about federal money not paying for abortion. BS. I have so many issues with this, not the least of which is that my daughter’s birth mother went to a clinic like PP and received life saving health care. This is personal and disgusting and enrages me so much right now. I am so angry with our bullying know-it-all politicians who do not support the views of their constituency or anything closely related to truth.

3 Chris { 03.23.17 at 2:16 pm }

I’ve sent my reps a number of letters on this- both because well, planned parendhood, but also because Trumpcare terrifies me. But, I live in the bluest of blue states. My Senators won’t be voting in favor and my idiot Congressman, well I don’t think he and I agree on a single position and yet for every letter I send all I get is a please donate. Uh, to your opponent idiot. Sorry, the guy really irritates me.

4 Working mom of 2 { 03.23.17 at 4:26 pm }

So many bad things. I have the problem – – if you can call it that – – of having a very blue congressman in a very blue county in a very blue state – – which is great. But you don’t really feel like you’re accomplishing much by calling them to tell them to vote like they already have planned. That doesn’t mean I haven’t made calls about the Muslim ban, etc.

5 catie { 03.23.17 at 6:19 pm }

Taking PP our of the picture for a moment (I support PP 1000% and make a sizable donation to my local PP every year) the terrifying truth is that a bunch of rich, white, MEN were sitting in a room today deciding whether or not maternity and pediatric care were “essential” items for ANY medical insurance companies to cover. Are you kidding me?? Add in the Russian influence in the election and the fact the my own country men (and women) were dumb enough to vote for this administration… Does anyone else think their head might explode soon????

I also live in an extremely blue state so calling my Reps to tell them to vote against this is pointless because they will be voting against Trumpcare already. Is it terrible that a little vindictive part of me is glad that poor Republicans that will soon be losing their healthcare (you know, the ones that didn’t know they were on ObamaCare?) Probably but at least I’m honest about it.

6 Jenn P { 03.23.17 at 8:01 pm }

Maybe this won’t make any sense, maybe it’s too legally complex, or maybe someone has already thought of it, but what if PP decentralizes itself? What if instead of one organization, they have 50, each with it’s own 501c3. All 50 of these wouldn’t have existed in 2014 and even if they split their Medicaid total, it wouldn’t equal the min on the bill. It might not even have to split into 50, maybe just 10 regional ones. They write into their bilaws things that make them still function as a whole, quarterly meetings, etc. There is always a way around this BS.

7 John Hughes { 03.25.17 at 6:06 am }

Article 1, section 9:
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

8 Foxy { 03.26.17 at 4:20 pm }

it is insane. all of it.

this was perfectly written Mel.

9 Geochick { 03.29.17 at 10:50 pm }

thanks for the schooling. Now I’m madder than ever. 😉

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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