The anti-choice blueprint for closing Planned Parenthood is in essence really not much different from the blueprint to end the availability of legal, safe abortion. First you pass legislation meant to restrict the ability of clinics to operate, both by regulating what a provider can do and cutting off any funding to offer services, ultimately forcing clinics to close. At the same time, you fight the opening of new clinics. Ohio and Oklahoma are taking the first approach: Funding restrictions will put Planned Parenthood affiliates at the end of the line for funding to serve the healthcare needs of low-income and uninsured people. In Louisiana anti-choice activists are focused on the second strategy, as they rally to block a new clinic from opening in New Orleans.
Ohio is trying to defund Planned Parenthood through the state budget, a move that has been thwarted in the past but still seems to be the conservative lawmakers’ favorite move for attacking the family planning group. A 4,500 page thick budget bill includes language stripping funding from Planned Parenthood and shifting it to deceptive crisis pregnancy centers that offer no health services. “Let’s keep the momentum going in the Senate. Defund Planned Parenthood and fund pregnancy crisis centers!” Ohio Right to Life gleefully tweeted during testimony in favor of the elimination of basic reproductive health care.
“Becoming licensed medical facilities would require CPCs to start proving women with medically accurate information. That would be a major adjustment for many CPCs in Ohio,” Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told RH Reality Check. Like many states, the Ohio NARAL affiliate sent women in to learn what crisis pregnancy centers really tell those who visit, and besides the many inaccurate statements about abortion itself, or the claims that an ultrasound can tell if a pregnancy is viable, it turns out that only a very small portion of the CPCs offered any actual medical care. One major chain of CPCs forbids talking to women about contraception unless they are married and even then advises that they only be “counseled” on it in conjunction with their spouses.
Oklahoma also is reallocating its family planning funds, with grants first going to “public entities” then nonpublic hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and rural health clinics” and “nonpublic health providers that have as their primary purpose the provision of the primary health care services.” It’s a prioritization that will leave the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates out in the cold. Oklahoma’s Planned Parenthood clinics don’t provide abortion in the state, a fact which did not stop the legislature from cutting them off from offering formula through the state’s WIC program in 2012.
The proposal was shunted into a bill that was originally about hospice care, and according to Tulsa World debate on the bill was cut off almost immediately, leaving few a chance to voice their concerns. It passed the House and Senate just before the session adjourned, leaving Republican Governor Mary Fallin’s signature as the last step before it becomes law.
Opening new centers are becoming even more difficult as well, if the landscape in Louisiana is any indication. Planned Parenthood only has two clinics in the state currently, and is in the process of trying to open a new center in New Orleans, which will also offer abortions. The city does already have two abortion providers, and the state lawmakers believe that Planned Parenthood’s plan to become the third must be stopped at all costs. Claiming they must stop the “abortion factory,” lawmakers are pushing a resolution that states that before the clinic can open, “various state and local government agencies to investigate the organization and make sure it is complying with every state and federal regulation on the books,” writes the Associated Press.
Until that happens, the state intends to block all grants and Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for all other health care services, saying that there have been accusations of mishandling or misreporting Medicaid services in order to bilk the taxpayers.
If that accusation sounds familiar, it should. It’s the battle cry of former Planned Parenthood worker turned anti-choice icon Abby Johnson, who has been down in the state helping to rally the faithful against the new clinic. Johnson attended a rally with Louisiana “pro-family” luminaries such as Republican Senator David Vitter, and has even starred in local television commercials protesting the new clinic to try to stop it from opening.
The strategy for the war against Planned Parenthood is clear: close clinics as fast anyway you can, and keep them closed by any means necessary.