During CNN's March 15 town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, CNN's Dana Bash soundly debunked Price's inaccurate arguments about Planned Parenthood in all instances but one: Price's claim that money given to Planned Parenthood was “fungible.”
Price -- who has a long history of pushing disastrous health care policies -- used the town hall as an opportunity to mislead viewers about the accessibility of essential care without Planned Parenthood, arguing that community health centers (CHCs) can handle the demands of providing essential care services. He also claimed that defunding Planned Parenthood is necessary because some Americans are concerned that “their federal tax dollars [are] used for abortion services.” Bash rebuked several of Price’s assertions, noting that the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding for abortion and that CHCs could not possibly fill the gap left behind by defunding Planned Parenthood. Bash explained that “105 counties across the country have Planned Parenthood and that is the only clinic offering a full range of contraceptive methods to women.”
Unfortunately, Bash and co-moderator Wolf Blitzer did allow Price to get away with one inaccuracy by letting him claim -- uncorrected -- that eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood is necessary because “that money is fungible," implying that federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood support abortion, even if indirectly. Despite providing robust pushback and asking important follow-up questions during the rest of the forum, Bash and Blitzer moved on from this comment without addressing Price’s dangerous claim.
Voices on the right have long used the argument that money is fungible to discredit Planned Parenthood and call for the defunding of its clinics across the country, suggesting that federal support for the organization’s services indirectly enables or contributes to its ability to provide abortions. But as the Guttmacher Institute points out, this logic is flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” The organization also notes that it is “hypocritical” to claim the “fungibility” problem only in relation to abortion providers, but not with regard to other federally subsidized organizations including religious groups and charities.
Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans nationally, 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. When this many people risk losing access to care, it is imperative for media to use extreme care in addressing the topic, including correcting those like Price when they spread misinformation about the consequences of Republicans’ efforts to upend the American health care system.