House Republicans announced this week that they intend to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and de-fund Planned Parenthood all in one budget “reconciliation” bill, a process that prevents Democrats from filibustering the measure and requires only a 51 vote in the Senate to pass, not the standard 60 vote threshold required for most controversial legislation.
Planned Parenthood provides reproductive healthcare services to 2.5 million people every year, and estimates that 80 percent of those services are to prevent unintended pregnancies. They receive over $500 million in federal funding each year, most of which is used for low-income patients. It is illegal for any federal funding to pay for abortion services due to the longstanding Hyde Amendment.
“This is a priority for Republicans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “So I just would like to speak individually to women across America: this is about respect for you, for your judgement about your personal decisions in terms of your reproductive needs, the size and timing of your family or the rest, not to be determined by the insurance company or by the Republican ideological right-wing caucus in the House of Representatives.”
Even though President Obama finalized a regulation to defend funding for family planning providers in December, the rule is open to attacks in Congress and by the Health and Human Services secretary, and could be overturned when Trump takes office.
Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, is one of the staunchest opponents of the ACA, introducing plans to repeal and replace the law in every Congress since 2009. Even if this reconciliation budget does not pass, and the ACA is spared for the time being, many women’s health advocates fear that Price would cut the ACA requirement that employer-sponsored health insurance plans cover contraception at no cost.
When asked in 2012 what he would say to low-income women who couldn’t afford birth control if it wasn’t covered by their health insurance, he replied, “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is, this is a trampling of religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”
Price has also voted to defund Planned Parenthood and has accused them of engaging in “barbaric” practices. In 2015 he sponsored a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
More attacks on women and reproductive healthcare providers are likely to be coming. The House Select Panel investigating abortion providers recently came to a close after releasing a final report with a number of troubling Congressional recommendations. Their report recommended instituting a federal 20-week abortion ban, de-funding Planned Parenthood, withholding funding from the National Institutes of Health until they restrict fetal tissue research, and creating an office in the Department of Justice to enforce the so-called Born Alive Infant Protections Act.
Media Resources: Rewire 1/5/17; CNN 1/6/2017; Feminist Majority Foundation 12/15/16, 11/30/16, 1/5/17.
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