Massachusetts House Passes ‘Emergency’ Funds for Planned Parenthood

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The Massachusetts House of Representatives has approved what it calls emergency legislation that would allocate up to $8 million for clinics that provide contraception for poor people – even if they also refer people for abortions or perform abortions at the same site.

The House passed the measure Wednesday, 140-14.

Democrats overwhelmingly supported it (119-10), and almost twice as many Republicans voted yes rather than no (21-11).

The Massachusetts Senate is expected to approve an identical bill on Thursday. Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, said earlier this week he plans to sign it.

The bill, H. 3638, is designed to counteract with state money a new rule promulgated by the Trump administration that would cut off federal Title X funds to Planned Parenthood and any other providers that mingle abortion-related services with contraception. The new federal rule, which is under court challenge, is scheduled to take effect in May.

Opponents of the new regulation call it a “gag rule,” because it prohibits health care providers in federally funded clinics from recommending abortions to their patients.

“It would constrict people’s health care and take away services that thousands of people have been relying on for decades. To restrict what counsel a physician can provide a patient is unacceptable. Once again, where Washington falls short, we in the commonwealth are ready and willing to step up and fill the needed gap,” said state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a North End Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, on the floor of the House. “… We cannot allow people’s health care to be put at risk because of the narrow-minded politics of the Trump administration. Today we are taking the first step in putting a stop to this.”

But an opponent called the measure a sop to already-well-funded abortion providers.

“This action by the House is nothing but a giveaway of our tax dollars to the abortion business. The CEO of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts makes over $250,000 annually, and they spend millions each year on political advocacy and campaign efforts. So why are our taxes making up for their funding shortfall?” said Chanel Prunier, executive director of the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, in a written statement. “Abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood shouldn’t receive taxpayer funds in the first place — particularly those related to family planning, as abortions are not ‘family planning’.”

The chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Jennifer Childs-Roshak, earned $277,750 during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, according to a federal Form 990.

The $8,000,000 state appropriation is enough to replace federal funds for fiscal year 2019 (which ends June 30, 2019) and fiscal year 2020 (which runs from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020).

State Representative Denise Garlick (D-Needham), vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, praised the bill.

“As a nurse, I saw firsthand how important it is to empower all individuals, men and women of all ages, to make their own choices and control their health and lives. The federal government in issuing the first domestic gag rule in the history of our country targets women in their reproductive choices and impacts essential preventative health services like STD screening and treatment, breast, cervical, and indeed even prostate cancer detection that may take place at these clinics, and HIV testing,” Garlick said on the floor of the House.

But Prunier argued that pro-abortion interests are swaying legislators.

“Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill are rewarding a major campaign contributor, happy to send taxpayer dollars to them so they double down on their support next election cycle,” Prunier said in the written statement. “Taxpayers should remember this the next time a local politician tells them there isn’t enough money for roads or schools, or suggests we need to raise taxes.”

Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, a political action committee allied with Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, tweeted a thank-you to House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Michlewitz:

The 14 state representatives who voted no included three Democrats:  Russell Holmes of Mattapan, Thomas Petrolati of Ludlow, and Angelo Scaccia of Readville; and 11 Republicans:  Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough, Donald Berthiaume of Spencer, Nicholas Boldyga of Southwick, William Crocker of Barnstable, Peter Durant of Spencer, Sheila Harrington of Groton, Marc Lombardo of Billerica, Joseph McKenna of Webster, Norman Orrall of Lakeville, Michael Soter of Bellingham, and Alyson Sullivan of Abington.

State Representative Alan Silvia (D-Fall River) was the lone member of the 34-member House Ways and Means Committee to vote against the bill in committee. He voted yes on the floor, however.

Twenty-one Republicans voted yes on the pro-Planned Parenthood bill:  F. Jay Barrows of Mansfield, Angelo D’Emilia of Bridgewater, David DeCoste of Norwell, Shawn Dooley of Norfolk, Kimberly Ferguson of Holden, Paul Frost of Auburn, Susan Gifford of Wareham, assistant minority leader Bradford Hill of Ipswich, Steven Howitt of Seekonk, Randy Hunt of Sandwich, minority leader Bradley Jones of North Reading, Hannah Kane of Shrewsbury, James Kelcourse of Amesbury, Lenny Mirra of West Newbury, David Muradian of Grafton, Mathew Muratore of Plymouth, Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton, Todd Smola of Palmer, David Vieira of Falmouth, Timothy Whelan of Brewster, and Donald Wong of Saugus.

Six Democrats did not vote on the bill:  Bruce Ayers of Quincy, Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester, Colleen Garry of Dracut, Natalie Higgins of Leominster, James Murphy of Weymouth, and John Rogers of Norwood.

All other Democrats voted yes.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Massachusetts House 127-32. There is one unenrolled member, who also voted yes.

[Editor’s Note:  An earlier version of this story stated that state Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox) did not vote on the bill, which was true at the time voting closed. He later voted yes. That changed the totals for the floor vote to 140 yes (up from 139 originally), for Democrats to 119 (up from 118 originally), and for Democrats who did not vote on the bill to 6 (down from 7 originally).]