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Conservative lawmakers will seek to defund Planned Parenthood next year

Conservative lawmakers plan to defund Planned Parenthood in early 2017, according to conservative sources inside and outside Congress, Politico reports.

According to Politico, if the defunding effort succeeds, it would likely mark the first step in conservative lawmakers' broader effort to ban abortion care at 20 weeks of pregnancy, make the Hyde Amendment permanent and ensure a conservative appointment to the Supreme Court.

Background

Last year, the Senate passed a budget bill aiming to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (PL 111-148) that also would have cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but it was vetoed by President Obama. However, conservative lawmakers say such a measure is more likely to pass under President-elect Donald Trump (Haberkorn/Everett, Politico, 11/28).

During his campaign, Trump pledged to defund Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/14). Planned Parenthood receives about $550 million in federal funding, but the organization is barred by federal law from using those funds for almost all abortion care. If lawmakers defund Planned Parenthood, Politico reports that low-income women covered through Medicaid would not be able to use their coverage to access contraception, screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted infections or other health care services from the organization.

Conservatives seeking to defund Planned Parenthood

According to Politico, conservative lawmakers and other abortion-rights opponents are aiming to attach a defunding provision to an effort to repeal the ACA. They plan to pass the legislative package through the budget reconciliation process, which would block a filibuster by liberal lawmakers and enable conservative lawmakers to submit the measure to Trump within weeks of his inauguration.

Conservative lawmakers likely have enough votes in the Senate to approve such a measure, and the House would likely easily pass the bill, Politico reports. However, according to Politico, if conservative lawmakers are not able to include the Planned Parenthood provision to the ACA repeal bill, they likely would look to Trump to use executive authority to restrict funding.

A final decision on conservative lawmakers' agenda for next year has not been made. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional sources last week indicated that conservative lawmakers remain invested in the defunding proposal. Antiabortion-rights groups also have expressed confidence that conservative lawmakers will include the defunding effort as part of the agenda.

Liberal lawmakers to fight back

Liberal lawmakers say they will fight efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

One senior aide to liberal lawmakers in Congress said, "That's a fight [liberal lawmakers] would relish. Doubling down on [the] ... contention that women should be punished for abortion and putting [conservative lawmakers'] extreme views into action would be a huge misstep on [conservative lawmakers'] part."

Separately, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Trump "should know that [liberal lawmakers] along with millions of women and men nationwide who rely on Planned Parenthood for their health care, don't want politics impacting their doctor's visit, and believe that women should be able to make their own choices about their own bodies, are watching and are going to hold him accountable."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said, "I'm confident that (the public) understands that the money [Planned Parenthood] receive[s] is not for abortions. It is for helping people avoid [unintended] pregnancies."

Planned Parenthood reaffirms commitment to stay open

In response to conservative lawmakers' defunding plans, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson cited an earlier statement by the organization's president, Cecile Richards, pledging to keep Planned Parenthood open. "We will fight to make sure that Planned

Parenthood health center doors stay open, and that people in this country can get access to basic reproductive health care, no matter their zip code, income, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, or country of origin," Richards said.

Richards added, "The majority of Americans, including Trump's own voters, support access to health care at Planned Parenthood and want abortion to stay legal and safe." According to Politico, a recent poll found that a 58 percent majority of voters in the United States, as well as 48 percent of people who said they would vote for Trump, want the government to continue allocating federal funding to Planned Parenthood, (Politico, 11/28).