U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently said Republicans would seek to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood as part of the effort to repeal Obamacare. This is a case where good policy and good politics overlap.
Polling recently conducted for the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion, found strong public support for eliminating taxpayer funding of abortion providers. The poll, conducted of voters in six states expected to be battlegrounds in Senate races in two years, asked if citizens support or oppose “giving your tax dollars to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.”
The poll found 56 percent opposed giving tax money to Planned Parenthood, with 47 percent strongly opposed. Just 28 percent expressed strong support for providing the taxpayer funding.
Although it’s been reported that as much as 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from tax dollars, the organization’s defenders argue that money doesn’t technically support abortion. But since money is fungible, that’s a difference without much distinction. Every tax dollar that frees up other dollars to support abortion has the same practical effect as a tax dollar directly expended on abortion.
Eliminating taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood wouldn’t mean eliminating taxpayer funding for women’s health services. In recent years, Republican efforts have called for redirecting money from Planned Parenthood to community health centers. This could result in greater benefit to far more women.
Nationally, there are roughly 700 Planned Parenthood centers, but there are more than 9,100 community health centers. These centers often focus on serving low-income patients and typically offer all services Planned Parenthood offers, other than abortion. Community health centers often offer more robust health services than Planned Parenthood.
For example, columnist Kathleen Parker has noted that Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer services are often limited to “a manual breast exam that any woman can do herself.” Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide mammograms, and instead directs women to go to other clinics for that service.
Thus, Republican efforts to redirect federal funding from Planned Parenthood to community health centers would likely mean women with breast cancer have access to serious diagnosis with less wasted time and wasted tax dollars. When it comes to cancer, the faster a patient is diagnosed and treated, the better. The Republican effort may save lives that are lost under the inefficient system that now diverts precious tax dollars to Planned Parenthood.
It also should be noted that the loss of tax dollars doesn’t mean Planned Parenthood will be out of the abortion business. That will no doubt continue, only without taxpayers being forced to indirectly subsidize abortions.
Even with Republican control of Congress and the White House, this proposal will face tough sledding. Senate Democrats could easily filibuster the proposal. Even so, the plan should be advanced. Redirecting federal tax dollars from Planned Parenthood is popular with voters, it could increase poor women’s access to legitimate health services, and it might even save lives.
If that’s not a collection of outcomes worth pursuing, then what is?
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