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April 04, 2017

Pennsylvania Republican introduces bill threatening state funding for Planned Parenthood

A piece of legislation introduced last week by Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania could potentially strip state-level funding for Planned Parenthood and other facilities that provide abortion services.

Sen. John Eichelberger, a Republican from Blair County, is the sponsor of SB300, a bill described as a "Prioritization of Funding for Women's Health Services."

A memorandum for SB300 says the legislation will "provide direction to the PA Department of Health as to how it must prioritize the allocation of public funds for family planning purposes," giving precedence to conventional public entities over non-public hospitals, non-public health providers and federally qualified health centers.

The bill, according to the memo, is modeled after last session's failed House Bill 1623, which identified Planned Parenthood specifically as an "unconventional" provider of women's health services.

Eichelberger's bill does not explicitly mention Planned Parenthood, though it's intent is similarly to redirect public funds made available after the Affordable Care Act struck co-payment requirements for a range of family planning services. The text of the bill makes clear that it is targeting abortion services by regulating the Department of Health.

The department may not enter into a contract with or make a grant to any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where such abortions are performed, except as required by Federal law when the services are provided under Medicaid and by a qualified provider approved by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Funding for federally qualified abortions covers only those cases in which a woman's life is endangered, or if her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates told BillyPenn the organization has "no doubt" the purpose of the bill is to defund the non-profit by preventing money from flowing through the Department of Human Services to providers of abortion services. Such organizations also provide a wide range of other reproductive health and preventive services, like contraception, birth control, breast cancer exams, sexual education and research.

The PPPA has endorsed Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to consolidate the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Human Services, whose funding requirements would be impacted the Eichelberger's bill. 

The introduction of SB300 comes in the wake of the U.S. Senate's passage of a bill that could make it easier for state and local governments to withhold federal funding to organizations offering family services. 

Wolf, whose relationship with Planned Parenthood caused a minor stir as efforts to defund the organization gained new momentum, has indicated on numerous occasions that he would not sign legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortion services.

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