By Amanda Litman, 6/15/2011
Today, North Carolina’s Republican-led Congress voted to override Democratic Governor Beverly “Bev” Perdue’s veto of the $19.7 billion, two-year state budget–making North Carolina the third state to defund Planned Parenthood.
In one short sentence at the end of the budget, Republican lawmakers have banned the North Carolina government from making any grants or entering any contracts with Planned Parenthood of North Carolina (PPNC). Planned Parenthood has nine clinics across the state and provides services to about 25,000 men and women each year. Prior to this budget, it received about $473,000 in state funds through programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy and providing birth control to low-income women.
State money was typically targeted to serve specific needs: A clinic in Wake County received a $32,000 grant to provide long-acting contraception to low-income women, and a $100,000 grant supported a teen pregnancy prevention program in Fayetteville. Melissa Reed, the vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems in North Carolina, says that every state dollar spent on PPNC saves taxpayers $4 by preventing pregnancies for women likely to rely on government services.
Without the state funding, PPNC says it will have to cut its teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent parenting programs, and force low-income patients to pay for services out-of-pocket. Low-income, uninsured women who don’t qualify for Medicaid will be left out in the cold.
The Congressional debate over the funding included a shocking moment when Republican state Rep. Pat McElraft told of a harrowing experience her nephew and his girlfriend had at Planned Parenthood 14 years ago:
They went to Planned Parenthood and asked them what her choices were. They told her she would have a deformed baby because of her drug use, her only option was abortion. He went with her to what she describes as a very dark house. In that dark house, a nurse attended to her. My nephew asked the nurse if she could at least see the ultrasound. The nurse said, ‘I can’t do that, I’ll get fired.’
The only problem? McElraft’s frightening story turned out to be false–not only did the incident take place in Georgia, not North Carolina, but the facility was not a Planned Parenthood clinic.
In a silver lining for the organization, PPNC has already seen an influx of donations. Reed told The Huffington Post that “beginning at 7:30 a.m. this morning, we had donations coming in.” Planned Parenthood of Indiana got a similar response, taking in $116,000 in donations after it was defunded in May. Like Indiana, PPNC is likely to pursue litigation against the state.
This is the first time a North Carolinian governor has vetoed a budget, and only the second time the legislature has ever overturned a veto.