Before the GOP announced its Obamacare replacement plan, the Trump administration made an informal offer to Planned Parenthood: You can keep your $500 million in yearly federal funding just as long as you stop providing abortions and abortion-related services. Unsurprisingly, Planned Parenthood refused.
“Offering money to Planned Parenthood to abandon our patients and our values is not a deal that we will ever accept,” the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood, said on Monday. “Providing critical health care services for millions of American women is nonnegotiable.”
When debates about federal funding for Planned Parenthood come up, the organization’s advocates generally come back to two main points: First, abortion is only one of the many services Planned Parenthood provides, with the majority focusing on family planning and cancer screenings. Second, federal funding already in no way contributes to PP’s abortion services (and never has). Both of these points are relevant for contextualizing this offer from the Trump team.
It is important to remember that Planned Parenthood saves lives by providing cancer screenings to women who might not otherwise be able to afford them. The fact that these women have become collateral damage in an ideological battle over abortion is despicable. During the campaign, Trump acknowledged how many women rely on Planned Parenthood for lifesaving medical care while in the same breath vowing to defund it. “I would defund it because I’m pro-life, but millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” he said in February 2016. The fact that the GOP is happy to deny these women the services they need because they don’t like Planned Parenthood on principle should be enough to show women across the country that this party does not care about them (I’m looking at you, 53 percent of white women who voted for Trump).
But when we rely too heavily on the argument that “They provide other services, too!”, it starts to look like we’re acknowledging that abortion is something Planned Parenthood should be ashamed of. This is not the case. Abortion may not be the only service they provide, but it’s not a dirty little secret, either. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, tweeted in response to the Trump administration’s offer: “Planned Parenthood is proud to provide abortion—a necessary service that’s as vital to our mission as birth control or cancer screenings.”
Additionally, the fact that federal funding is already kept separate from Planned Parenthood’s abortion funding shows that this offer of a “compromise” was empty from the start. “Federal funds do not pay for abortion. At Planned Parenthood, we don’t agree with this harmful policy—but it’s the law & we follow it,” Richards tweeted, pointing out the lack of logic in this posturing offer. Planned Parenthood’s federal funding has nothing to do with abortion services, so why should abortion services have any impact on the federal funding? Because this was never about principle. This was an effort to take some of the heat off of the GOP from the opposition they’re already facing in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
This offer simply set the stage upon which the Trump administration can deflect when millions protest if defunding ever does happen. Now, when people decry the administration’s efforts to repeal funding, they can say “we gave them a chance.” But blackmailing Planned Parenthood into rolling back one of the most critical services they offer was never a real option.
And by the way, Planned Parenthood funding is cut in the knock-off Obamacare the GOP just rolled out. Of course, their plan—which would put the brunt of healthcare costs on the shoulders of the poor Americans who can least afford them, provide tax cuts for the rich, and penalize the working poor for lapses in coverage that might result from job loss—is only an opening salvo. It’s going to face a lot of resistance from Democrats (hopefully as much or more than Obamacare faced from Republicans), and Planned Parenthood funding is likely to be one of the more contentious sticking points. But we know that they, as an organization, care too much about the women who rely on them to sell out one of their most essential services just because it would make them more palatable for the GOP.