Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) promise to make up millions of dollars in shortfall if Congress and the Trump administration cut Planned Parenthood’s federal funding lifeline has nothing to do with medical care and everything to do with politics, according to one of the state’s pro-life leaders.
“The governor’s stance appears to be aimed at currying favor with liberal-leaning voters,” Patricia D. Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told PJM.
The Boston Globe reported the five Planned Parenthood clinics in Massachusetts would lose a total of $2 million a year, less than 10 percent of their annual budgets.
Baker, through his administration’s spokeswoman, said March 3 that Massachusetts would make up the difference.
“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,” Baker spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, released a statement in which she said losing $2 million a year in federal funding would be “devastating” to thousands of Planned Parenthood’s patients.
“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 well-being of our communities ahead of politics,” Childs-Roshak said.
Stewart told PJM the Baker administration is being more than disingenuous.
“There are many non-abortion facilities in Massachusetts that are more widely accessible than Planned Parenthood’s clinics and provide more general healthcare services to women than Planned Parenthood does,” Steward said. “Directing additional state funding to these facilities would yield a greater benefit to women’s health.”
But Rep. James J. Lyons Jr. (R) wrote in an op-ed published in the Boston Herald that Childs-Roshak and Baker want to block out a rare moment of clarity in Washington and support a pro-choice organization that wants to offer no choice.
“Apparently, Beacon Hill politicians, joined by their Planned Parenthood sponsors, oppose granting this choice to taxpayers,” Lyons wrote. “Seemingly, the only choice that matters belongs to a well-funded Planned Parenthood, so long as taxpayers pick up the tab.”
This is all about abortion.
Congressional Republicans have wanted to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding because of the abortions they provide. Even though Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using that funding to pay for the procedures, opponents say the money that goes to the organization allows it to spend other funds to provide abortions.
President Trump is aware of what a political tinderbox this issue could be for him and his fellow Republicans. But he also made it clear in a statement to the New York Times that his administration would not back down.
“Polling shows the majority of Americans oppose public funding for abortion, even those who identify as pro-choice,” Trump said. “There is an opportunity for organizations to continue the important work they do in support of women’s health, while not providing abortion services.”
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, didn’t wait long to shoot that idea down.
“Planned Parenthood’s singular commitment is to the women and men who come to us for health care every day in communities across the country. We will always stand for women’s ability to make decisions about their health and lives, without interference from politicians in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
With neither side willing to back down, it appears Gov. Baker, who has not formally asked the Massachusetts Legislature for money to make up for Planned Parenthood’s potential loss of Medicaid money, is going to have to make good on that promise.
However, he is not the only governor who has put his reputation on the line over Planned Parenthood funding.
Chris McClure, a spokesman for Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s (D) budget office, told the Connecticut Mirror that the Democrat’s budget proposal includes a provision to maintain Planned Parenthood’s funding level.
Susan Yolen, vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said 30,000 patients per year depend on Medicaid funding, which could be eliminated.
“That’s a lot of people who would be impacted if Planned Parenthood could not be their provider. That’s why we’re concerned,” said Yolen.
But Connecticut Right to Life spokesman Chris O’Brien doesn’t see it that way. He said Malloy’s proposal to step in where Congress declines to tread would only “promote the death of children at taxpayer expense.”
“When Governor Malloy and state Democrats choose to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from life-saving work to granting money to an organization that murders unborn children,” O’Brien said at a “Defund Planned Parenthood” rally in Hartford on Feb. 11, “we’ve come to a point where our priorities are misplaced.”