NASHVILLE (BP) — Nebraska and Tennessee this month joined more than a dozen states that have cut funding for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, a pro-life campaign that has seen mixed results.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts approved a budget that prohibits Title X funding from going to abortion providers, directing $1.9 million toward centers that neither refer for nor perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood criticized the move, saying it would “block health care” for at least 8,000 people. But Nebraska Right to Life director Julie Schmit-Albin said the law will prevent “illegal melding of Title X funds to support abortion activities.”
Use of federal funds to perform abortions or to fund entities that perform abortions is prohibited by federal law, but Planned Parenthood claims it uses its $60 million in Title X funding and $390 million in Medicaid reimbursements for other services. In part because of that claim, many states’ efforts to direct Medicaid or Title X funding away from the abortion giant are tied up in court battles.
Undeterred by those challenges, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed two pieces of legislation that defund Planned Parenthood in different ways.
The first bill codifies an administrative policy from 2011 that prioritizes federally qualified health centers over other facilities, including abortion providers.
Brian Harris, director of Tennessee Right to Life, said the state has 187 federally qualified health centers, and only four Planned Parenthood facilities. The health centers “are far more accessible and offer comprehensive services,” he said.
Tennessee’s policy has directed $1.1 million away from Planned Parenthood every year, without directly targeting the abortion giant.
“The policy doesn’t directly name Planned Parenthood and, legally, they can still compete for the funds,” Harris noted. “But they are a bottom tier contender, and during the last seven years, no Title X funds have been directed by the state of Tennessee to Planned Parenthood facilities anywhere in our state.”
The second law could face a tough legal challenge, as it blocks state funds from going to abortion providers. Similar measures in other states have had mixed success. Of the 16 states that have either legislatively or judicially redirected some or all funding from Planned Parenthood to other entities, at least a half-dozen have had federal judges block the laws.
The clash over funding has gone all the way to Washington: At the end of 2016, the Obama administration issued an order prohibiting states from withholding Title X funds from abortion providers, an 11th-hour rule that President Donald Trump overturned a month later.
Americans United for Life Chief Legal Officer Steven Aden said he expects the Supreme Court to examine the funding conflict sometime next year. Kansas has appealed a federal court ruling against its redirection of Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Louisiana plans to file its own petition later this month, Aden said.
Federally qualified health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities 20-to-1 nationwide, and they offer a full range of healthcare, not just reproductive-related services, Aden noted. That makes redirecting funds beneficial not only from a moral perspective, “but it’s also good fiscal policy and it’s good healthcare policy,” Aden said.