Charlie To Planned Parenthood:  I’ve Got Your Back

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Massachusetts state government will make up for any de-funding of Planned Parenthood in the state by Congress, Governor Charlie Baker announced.

An apparent majority in the Republican-led Congress wants to take federal funding away from Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. The Hyde Amendment ensures that federal money can’t go directly to abortions, but Planned Parenthood is able to use the money for the other services it provides, including contraception, cervical cancer screening, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

While social conservatives in Congress generally oppose the abortion provider, undercover videos published in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood officials’ willingness to sell the body parts of aborted fetuses gave new impetus to de-fund the organization. Now that Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the presidency, taking away federal funds appears possible.

But Baker, also a Republican, announced through his press office Friday that state government in Massachusetts will up the ante if Congress pulls federal funding.

The news was first reported late Friday morning by The Boston Globe. A copy of an email statement from a governor’s press spokesman was also obtained by New Boston Post.

“Governor Baker is a strong supporter of women’s health and believes the Commonwealth has a responsibility to ensure access to the important health care services offered by Planned Parenthood in all corners of our state, and the administration is prepared to fund these services should the federal government pursue changes that would block care for women and families here in Massachusetts,” said Lizzie Guyton, the governor’s communications director, in the written statement.

Baker, a social liberal, supports legal abortion. But in December he was criticized by Planned Parenthood for cutting more than $180,000 from the state’s funding for contraception services, as part of a round of mid-fiscal-year budget cuts he made when state revenues didn’t meet forecasts.

His announcement Friday came about 24 hours before a planned rally in support of Planned Parenthood on Boston Common, which is scheduled for noon Saturday.

Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, praised the governor Friday.

“I thank Governor Baker for his commitment to the health and wellbeing of Planned Parenthood patients. Yet no Governor should be put in position of trying to mitigate attacks on women in his or her state made by Congress. At a time when extreme politicians in Congress want to block millions of people from accessing essential preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers, it is reassuring to see Governor Baker put the health and wellbeing of our communities ahead of politics,” Childs-Roshak said in a written statement.

An opponent of Planned Parenthood challenged the logic of funding Planned Parenthood.

Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, noted that the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House criticized Planned Parenthood heavily in reports issued after the fetal-parts scandal came to light. He questioned the need to give the organization government money.

“Why should any taxpayer dollars go to Planned Parenthood when there are 270 Federally Qualified Health Centers in Massachusetts that can provide women access to health care and which are not under federal investigation?” Beckwith said in an email message.

Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said state tax money should go to neighborhood health centers that don’t perform abortions, “which are much more inclusive and give much more extensive care” than Planned Parenthood.

“Gov. Baker is really planning to soak Massachusetts taxpayers. Massachusetts is one of the few states that already pays for 100% of the costs of abortions, two-thirds of which are done by Planned Parenthood. Now Baker plans to make the Massachusetts taxpayers further subsidize this business!” Fox said in an email message.

The federal government provides Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers, including Planned Parenthood, for services they provide for poor people. Under federal law those federal tax dollars can’t go toward abortions, but they can be used for other services

In Massachusetts, state health care funds earmarked for poor people do  pay for abortions.

In 1978, the Flynn-Doyle Bill prohibited the state government from paying for abortions. It was sponsored by then-state representatives Charles Doyle and Ray Flynn (who later became mayor of Boston).

But in 1980 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state constitution requires the state government to provide funding for poor women seeking abortions.

Baker’s announcement Friday directly bears on the non-abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides:  Whatever funds Congress pulled from Medicaid reimbursements for non-abortion services the Massachusetts health and human services agency would make up the difference.