US Republicans prepared to put the poor at risk in order to make a political stand on abortion

A key provider of free STI testing and treatment to America’s poor and uninsured, Planned Parenthood (PP), faces the immediate loss of all public funding in Indiana State. This is thanks to a new law signed by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels (likely Republican presidential nominee) intended to defund sexual health service providers who perform abortions. A federal judge has just refused an injunction, requested by PP, to suspend implementation of the law and to ensure continued public funding, prior to a final ruling on the appeal they (PP) had lodged against the law. This leaves PP with a funding deficit $1.5m, half of the state’s 28 PP clinics facing closure, and 9,300 Medicaid PP service-users potentially without sexual health provision.
Perhaps more worrying than the impact on Indiana service users is the precedent set by the Indiana state legislature. A similar measure in Kansas now only awaits the Governor’s signature, while a successful women’s health programme operating in Texas also faces defunding due to PP involvement. These attacks on PP at the level of state legislatures should be set in the context of Indiana Representative Mike Pence’s attempt to “defund” PP at federal level, last February. The “Pence amendment” passed the Republican dominated House of Representatives, but was subsequently defeated in the Senate. At issue, both at state and federal level, is the fate of federal “Title X (ten)” funding designated to provide reproductive health care to 5 million or so low-income and uninsured persons. Among this group are the 1.4 million service-users on Medicaid who make up 48% of PP’s clientele.
Proponents of defunding claim there are other providers who would fill the gap left by the removal of PP. However, the impact that defunding PP would have on reproductive health provision for the underprivileged is hard to predict. PP responds that abortions represent only 6% of the procedures it undertakes, and that these abortions are not funded out of federal “Title X” provision. Many Republicans seem clear that the risk to the reproductive health of their poorer citizens is one they are ready to take in order to make a political stand on abortion.

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