May Day for Planned Parenthood

When Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards walked out of her office for the last time yesterday, fans gushed that her legacy wouldn’t be forgotten. They’re right — because Richards’s legacy is the brutal slaughter of 3.5 million unborn lives. In her 12 years at the top, Planned Parenthood destroyed a population bigger than Chicago’s — and somehow managed to convince Congress to help.

We’ll never know how much taxpayers have unwillingly propped up the group’s killing machine — but we know enough. A half-billion dollar investment into a group that thinks carving up tiny bodies is a great way to make a buck, or jokes about hitting the gym before snapping babies’ necks, is an indefensible use of American money.

Then, of course, there’s the organization’s political hobby. “Richards reaped the rewards of taxpayer largess,” Kristin Hawkins writes, “made possible in part by cozy relationships with those holding Uncle Sam’s purse strings.” Now, thanks to Congress keeping the tamer side of business afloat, Planned Parenthood can sink another $30 million into a midterm election campaign designed to elect people who will protect their federal gravy train. All of this while the organization is under criminal investigation by the FBI!

No wonder President Trump is huddling with staff to give Richards the perfect parting gift: a change to the government’s funding rules. According to multiple sources, the administration has been discussing a major rewrite of Title X “family planning” funds for weeks. After last weekend’s #ProtestPP rallies in 150 cities, leaders are getting the message: it’s time to act. And while Congress may have let pro-lifers down in the latest omnibus spending package, the White House doesn’t need to prove its sincerity on the issue after a series of policy victories.

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With a new set of regulations, the president could draw a bright line between abortion groups and true family planning programs. What’s on the table at the White House now are Reagan-era rules that would still let Planned Parenthood take Title X funds — but not at the clinics where they perform abortions. Under this “co-location” policy, they’d have to choose between dropping their abortion services from any location that gets Title X dollars and moving those abortion operations offsite. Either way, it could take away a significant bite out of the group’s $80 million in family planning funds.

The Hill’s conservatives are certainly on board. In letters released today, 106 House and 41 Senate Republicans appeal to HHS chief Alex Azar to move forward with the rule change. Led by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, House members argue:

The separation between abortion and family planning has been weakened by permitting Title X clinics to be ‘co-located’ within the same facility as an entity that provides abortion… Such an arrangement raises concerns about program integrity. Co-located centers may be vulnerable to misuse of funds in support of abortion activities and send a message that abortion is considered a method of family planning in federally funded family planning programs. To ensure that the federally funded family planning services offered by Title X grant recipients are unquestionably separate and distinct from abortion, Title X service sites should be physically, as well as financially, separate from facilities that provide abortion.

Pro-life senators agree, writing separately:

We ask that you restore the regulations issued on February 2, 1988 (53 FR 2922) which clarified that Title X programs may not promote, counsel, or refer clients for abortion or co-locate or combine family planning services with abortion activities. These rules required not only complete financial separation, but also physical separation of abortion activities from Title X service sites and separate personnel. These rules were upheld by the Supreme Court in Rust v. Sullivan (500 U.S. 173) in 1991.

We applaud the states that have acted on Congress’ 2017 legislation overturning an Obama-era Title X rule (P.L. 115-23) by redirecting these funds from abortion entities like Planned Parenthood towards community health centers that provide more comprehensive health services for women, but not abortion. Nevertheless, we urge the administration to do more.

Conservatives will get another crack at Planned Parenthood’s funding stream — hopefully soon. Until then, the $80 million they get under Title X is a major step to the ultimate goal: ending taxpayers’ forced partnership with abortion for good.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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