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April 26, 2017

Bill progresses in Pa. Senate to cut state funding to Planned Parenthood

Gov. Wolf vows to veto if legislation reaches his desk

Pennsylvania lawmakers moved forward this week on a bill that would cut state funding to Planned Parenthood, but the legislation faces strong opposition.

On Wednesday, the state Senate Finance Committee narrowly approved the measure by a 7-5 vote, allowing the full legislative body to consider the bill.

Senate Bill 300 would revise regulations and guidelines outlining how state funding for medical services is distributed. However, critics claim the bill unfairly targets facilities that provide abortion services.

Sen. John Eichelberger, R–Blair County, the bill's primary sponsor, argues public funds would be better spent on medical providers that offer a variety of services.

The bill "will prioritize funds so that service providers offering the broadest array of services receive the most funding, securing that the women and families who seek these services will have better care," Eichelberger said. "Secondly, because the health care provided will be generally more comprehensive and delivered directly, it will save on the long-term costs of health care.”

While Eichelberger describes the legislation as a "Priorities Bill" to direct state funding, a provision clearly targets facilities that perform abortions. The bill prevents the Department of Health from awarding any grants to those clinics, like Planned Parenthood. Exceptions are made for pregnancies due to rape or incest and cases that endanger the woman's life.

That focus drew the ire of Gov. Tom Wolf, who called the bill "an ideologically driven attempt to disrupt health services for thousands of women in Pennsylvania." If the bill reaches his desk, Wolf vowed to veto it.

"Planned Parenthood provides important health and welfare services for men and women, especially in rural and underserved areas," Wolf wrote in a statement. "Some politicians in Harrisburg are dead set on putting themselves in between a woman and her doctor and prevent both men and women from having access to services they may not have an opportunity to get elsewhere. This legislation solves no problems but rather seeks to create additional hardship for Pennsylvanians seeking health care, especially women."

Eichelberger acknowledged the bill's effect on Planned Parenthood but claimed the organization does not address enough medical conditions. "This level of service is unacceptable for our citizens,” he said.

Although Eichelberger also admitted during the hearing before the vote he is unaware of what services Planned Parenthood provides:

Currently, there are no plans to debate the legislation in the full chamber.