The New York Times editorial board drew attention to the 23 states that since July have been attempting to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding following a series of “completely bogus” and “deceptively edited” videos released by an anti-choice group whose employees were consequently indicted by a Texas grand jury. The result, the Times editorial board explained, is reduced access to essential health care and “immediate and substantial” harm “on the poorest and most vulnerable women.”
Since July, the anti-choice group Center For Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of highly edited smear videos which they claimed was evidence of Planned Parenthood officials illegally selling fetal tissue and using illegal abortion methods. None of the CMP's claims of illegal activity by Planned Parenthood have borne out: investigations conducted in twelve states and by the U.S. Department Of Health and Human Services found no wrongdoing on the part of the organization. CMP's founder David Daleiden and his associate were indicted by a Houston grand jury in January for tampering with a governmental record in their campaign against Planned Parenthood.
On March 28, The New York Times editorial board explained that “Since last July, 23 states have tried various ways of cutting money” for Planned Parenthood, and “So far 11 have succeeded,” inflicting “substantial and immediate” harm “on the poorest and most vulnerable women.” The board noted that the ongoing legislative battles over Planned Parenthood “circle back to the decades-long crusade by conservative lawmakers to end women's access to safe and legal abortion -- and increasingly, to reduce their access to contraception.” The result, they explained “is reduced access to essential health care for millions of American women”:
Since last July, 23 states have tried various ways of cutting money for the organization. So far 11 have succeeded, most recently Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed HB 1411, a sweeping anti-abortion bill that, among many destructive provisions, prohibits Medicaid and other public funds from being used to reimburse organizations that work with abortion providers.
The federal government has warned states that such efforts may be illegal, because federal law entitles Medicaid beneficiaries to receive care from any qualified provider they choose. But that hasn't stopped Republican efforts; similar laws are poised to be enacted in Arizona and Missouri in the coming days.
The harm inflicted on the poorest and most vulnerable women is substantial and immediate. Planned Parenthood provides contraceptives and other health care services, like cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, to millions of women around the country; for many low-income women it is the only option. Abortions are a tiny fraction of the services Planned Parenthood clinics offer, and public money cannot be used for abortions in almost all cases anyway.
State lawmakers and governors claim that these health care needs can be easily met by other providers, like community health centers. In reality, many of these “centers” are housed in elementary schools or other facilities that are ill-equipped to handle the large number of patients who previously relied on Planned Parenthood.
All these fights, of course, circle back to the decades-long crusade by conservative lawmakers to end women's access to safe and legal abortion -- and increasingly, to reduce their access to contraception. On Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana signed a bill that further limits reproductive services in that state, including a flatly unconstitutional ban on abortions for fetal abnormalities and a provision making doctors legally liable in such cases.
Congress may not have succeeded in hobbling Planned Parenthood, but as these state attacks gain momentum, the result is reduced access to essential health care for millions of American women.