The Truth about Ending Funding for Planned Parenthood

Congressman Pat TiberiCapitol Notebook: A Column By U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH)

I was in a meeting when I first heard about the videos showing health care workers callously discussing the selling of baby body parts and it was almost unbelievable. When I got back to my office and watched one, my heart sunk. As more and more videos come out, the more sickened I am. I have been pro-life my entire life, and as the father of four daughters, I firmly believe all life is precious. We have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, and hearing health care providers talk about harvesting organs from babies as if they were animals being slaughtered for meat is beyond disturbing.

This is why the House’s vote to freeze all funding for Planned Parenthood is so important. Congresswoman Diane Black’s (R-TN) bill, H.R. 3134, would stop the funding for one year while the House of Representatives investigates the organization’s practices and ensures federal laws are being followed. In the previous Congress, I voted to defund Planned Parenthood, but the Senate refused to consider the measure. Taxpayers should not have to fund organizations that support such barbaric behavior. Freezing funding until investigators get to the bottom of this is the right way to address the situation and I hope the Senate promptly puts this bill up for a vote and sends it to the president to sign into law.

Because Congress did not complete the appropriations process, current government funding ends on September 30th and Congress must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating. Many suggest Congress should use the upcoming government funding bill as a way to cut off federal dollars to Planned Parenthood by shutting down the entire federal government. To say that shutting down the government would solve this problem is disingenuous and misleading. I wish it were that easy. There are two types of government spending: mandatory, or autopilot spending, and discretionary spending which is allocated and determined by Congress through the annual appropriations process. However, Planned Parenthood isn’t specifically mentioned in any appropriations bills. Planned Parenthood receives some of its federal dollars through the appropriations process by way of Title X grants. Grant recipients are determined by the Department of Health and Human Services. Title X grants are meant to be used by public and nonprofit organizations for family planning, research, and training. Many public health clinics receive Title X funds, including quality organizations that do not provide abortions.

Defunding Planned Parenthood through Congress in the appropriations process is an impossible task as one can see by just looking at the numbers. First, although we can pass a bill that stops funding in the House, it can’t survive a Senate filibuster. When a bill to defund Planned Parenthood came up in the Senate recently, it couldn’t get the 60 votes it needed to survive a filibuster and failed to advance by a vote of 53-46. Second, the president has vowed to veto any funding bill that cuts off Planned Parenthood.

Imagine for a moment Senate Republicans were able to send a bill to defund the organization to the president for his signature by either convincing seven additional members they still need to overcome a filibuster and allow for a vote, or by using the so called “nuclear option.” President Barack Obama would veto it. To override a veto, a bill needs the support of 2/3 of the members of both the House and the Senate. With Senator Harry Reid leading opposition in the Senate and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi leading opposition in the House and with almost all Democrats united against it, we do not have enough votes to overturn a veto. Under the system of government that our Founding Fathers set up, to defund Planned Parenthood in the appropriations process, without super majorities in both the House and Senate to overcome presidential vetoes, we need a president who is willing to do it. Even Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee said “But realistically, with President Obama in the White House holding that veto pen, I don’t know that any government shutdown could accomplish what we want. What we have to do is get a new pro-life president in, and we’d have a much better chance of actually taking away their money.” To say it’s frustrating to know we can’t stop Planned Parenthood through the appropriations process is an understatement. What’s even more disappointing is that some of my colleagues, although they already know the vote tallies, continue to call for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. My questions to them are “What is your end game? What is your path to victory? How are you suddenly going to convince Democrats that just voted against defunding Planned Parenthood to override a veto?”

Planned Parenthood receives between $50 and $60 million in federal discretionary dollars through the appropriations process every year, a much smaller share than the amount of federal money they receive through mandatory, or auto-pilot, spending. Mandatory spending is not addressed in the annual appropriations process, but is predetermined by existing law.  Planned Parenthood receives reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, just like other healthcare providers, to the tune of approximately $400 million annually. For example, when a Medicaid beneficiary chooses to go to a Planned Parenthood clinic for an annual exam, that clinic receives reimbursement from Medicaid just like any other health care provider would. These reimbursements would continue, although they may be possibly delayed, regardless of a government of shutdown. The remaining $50 million in government funding that Planned Parenthood receives is through social services block grants, child health block grants or through state and local funds. By comparison, Planned Parenthood reported $1.3 billion in revenue in its last annual report. More than 80 percent of the national headquarters revenue and more than 20 percent of local affiliate clinic revenue is raised through private donations.

To be clear, I oppose these horrific practices and believe taxpayers shouldn’t have to support organizations that condone these actions. There are plenty of alternative locations where women can receive family planning and women’s health services. For every Planned Parenthood facility there are 20 federally-funded comprehensive care clinics, known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) or Rural Health Centers offering women 13,000 alternatives. In Ohio, there are 204 different FQHC service sites that serve more than one-half million women. They offer emergency medical care, mammograms, radiological services, child wellness services, health screenings, and a full spectrum of family planning care. They do not provide abortions. Wouldn’t federal money be better spent at these centers? Furthermore, wasn’t Obamacare, with its “low-cost” health coverage and “free” women’s health services, supposed to decrease demand for places like Planned Parenthood?

As horrifying as the videos are and as unimaginable as it is to buy and sell baby body parts there is no viable path to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood by shutting down the government. Given the challenges we face at home and abroad, shutting down the government when there is no end game in sight is not something I am willing to risk. The best way to put an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood once and for all is to complete an investigation to determine which federal laws have been violated, which is why I voted for H.R. 3134. Three laws are discussed when talking about potential violations, including the for-profit sale of fetal tissue, prohibition on providers changing “the timing, method, or procedure” of abortions to recover fetal tissue for research, and the ban on partial-birth abortions. As a pro-life member of Congress, I support the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding of abortions but permits funding of other family planning activities. I will follow these investigations into Planned Parenthood’s actions closely because the most innocent among us, babies, deserve nothing less than the strongest protections possible.

U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi represents the 12th Congressional District of Ohio. It is composed of Delaware, Licking, and Morrow Counties and parts of Franklin, Marion, Muskingum, and Richland Counties. Congressman Tiberi is the chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.

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