Later today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood. This is a good and necessary response to the shocking reports of Planned Parenthood harvesting and selling body parts from recently aborted unborn children.
Ahead of the vote, supporters of Planned Parenthood are claiming the Senate bill defunding the organization could run afoul of Medicaid statutes.
But that argument is flawed.
S. 1881, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, would prohibit any federal funds, including Medicaid reimbursements, from going to Planned Parenthood. It would instead redirect those dollars to clinics that provide women’s health services as well as a wider range of primary care.
During its 2013-2014 reporting year, Planned Parenthood reported receiving over $528 million in government funding—41 percent of the organization’s total revenue. The annual report does not provide a breakdown of federal versus state funding or the exact government grants, contracts and reimbursements it receives.
A 2015 Government Accountability Office report, however, shows that the organization receives some federal taxpayer money through Title X family planning grants but derives most of its government funding through a combination of state and federal payments under Medicaid.
Some supporters of Planned Parenthood point to what’s known as Medicaid’s “free choice of provider” clause to claim that the Senate bill could face legal trouble should it be signed into law. The relevant statute reads:
A State plan for medical assistance must…provide that…any individual eligible for medical assistance (including drugs) may obtain such assistance from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required (emphasis added).
The Seventh and Ninth Circuits have interpreted that provision to prevent Indiana and Arizona from withholding public funds to abortion providers under the state’s Medicaid plan—arguing that doing so would violate federal law by limiting a Medicaid recipient’s choice of family planning providers.
Even if that interpretation of the statute is correct, the “free choice of provider” provision applies only to states as they make decisions about which family planning providers to reimburse under a state-run Medicaid plan.
Congress is not bound by those regulations and can determine which providers are “qualified” to perform the services covered under the entitlement program.
Planned Parenthood does not have a right to the hard-earned money of American taxpayers. Congress can—and should—end federal funding of the abortion giant.