11:45am

Fri April 8, 2011
It's All Politics

Planned Parenthood: Budget Fight About Us, Not Abortion Funding

Many journalists have reported that a major hitch in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over funding the federal government for the rest of the year comes down to a fight over abortion funding.

But Planned Parenthood has issued urgent messages to journalists, asking us be more careful about saying the spending fight is about money for abortion since, as the organization points out, it's against federal law for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be used for abortions except in certain emergency situations, like the life of the mother.

Instead, the non-profit provider of health services to women says the spending battle is actually due to House Republicans focusing an attack on Planned Parenthood, the organization itself, because it provides family planning in its mix of services.

But 90 percent of the health care it provides is preventive screening services like those for breast and cervical cancers, Planned Parenthood says.

Planned Parenthood's point is well taken. The impasse over legislation that would fund the federal government for the rest of the year is about, among other things, a policy rider on the bill that would block federal funding of Planned Parenthood for those preventive services.

But some social conservatives have argued that Planned Parenthood shouldn't get any federal funding because that taxpayer funding allows it to use more of the dollars it receives from private donors to provide abortions.

There is apparently confusion at fairly high levels in Congress, however, over all that Planned Parenthood does. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Senate Minority Whip, said on the Senate floor Friday morning that more than 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions.

Planned Parenthood's message to journalists is below. It includes the original's use of boldface for emphasis:

As we face the prospect of a government shutdown, we urge those covering the story to report on the issue accurately. A number of outlets have reported that the standoff on Capitol Hill concerns "abortion funding." This is wholly inaccurate and is nothing more than a political talking point.

Federal law already bars the use of federal funds for abortion services. There is no federal abortion funding to cut.

What's at stake is not "abortion funding." Abortion services are not covered by Medicaid or any other federal program. The Hyde amendment settled that issue more than 30 years ago.

The truth is that the rider regarding Planned Parenthood would bar Planned Parenthood from being paid by Medicaid and other federal programs for providing women with birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, and testing and treatment for other STIs.

More than 90 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood provides is preventive.

Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide:
-nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer
-830,000 breast exams
-affordable birth control to nearly 2.5 million patients
-nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV testing

We ask that you report on the issue accurately. It is not a proposal over funding for abortion but a debate over a proposal to exclude one health care provider — one that provides high-quality health care at extremely low rates — from participating in existing federal programs.

A more accurate way to refer to this is that it is a debate over "Planned Parenthood" or "family planning and preventive health care." It is not a debate over "funding for abortion."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.