As the conservative slander campaign against Planned Parenthood heated up in recent months, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature decided that it would cave to the propaganda and strip Planned Parenthood of its federal Medicaid funding. The campaign is part of an increasing conservative movement to eliminate all public funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, nevermind the fact that abortions make up only about 3% of Planned Parenthood’s activities – much less a woman’s right to do with her body as she chooses and the hypocritical sexism that underlies the Republican war on women.
Unfortunately for Missouri Republicans, however, federal law prohibits states from steering Medicaid funding away from Planned Parenthood, and this principle has been upheld in numerous court cases. So, to get around that pesky little law, the legislature decided to eliminate all federal Medicaid money for women’s health programs in the state and pay the $8.3 million tab out of the state’s coffers instead. The legislators argue that, now that they’ve eliminated federal money from women’s health programs altogether, they are free to allocate the money as they want. Which, of course, means that none of the money will make its way to Planned Parenthood or any other organization that provides abortions.
This defunding of Planned Parenthood represents a colossal betrayal of Missouri’s citizens, especially since it will be Medicaid patients – the poorest of the state’s residents, who often have no other options available for health care – who will suffer the most for the ideological whims of the Jefferson City Republicans with their government-financed health care plans. Planned Parenthood of Missouri serves about 50,000 people per year, of whom about 7,000 are on Medicaid, and thousands of other destitute women will suffer when funding is cut off from local health clinics, especially in the state’s rural areas. Moreover, tens of thousands more Missourians who were otherwise have access to high-quality insured healthcare are forced to rely on these small local clinics because the state decided in 2013 to opt out of expanding its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.
What makes the toll on Missourians even worse, however, is that they will now have to contribute more out of their pockets merely to finance the puritanical ideological crusade of the state’s Republican masters. That $8.3 million that previously came from Washington will now have to be raised by the state. The colossal stupidity of the move is made clear by the fact that, out of the $8.3 million total of women’s health Medicaid grants, less than $380,000 – about 4.5% – was spent on abortion-related activities. So, in essence, Missouri Republicans have decided to spend $8.3 million to eliminate $380,000 in funding. It’s a logic that would only make sense to a Republican congressperson.
The overwhelming remainder of the money went to county health clinics and other local clinics and was spent on procedures ranging from family planning to STD testing and pelvic exams, all of which will be negatively affected by the curtailment of funding to any organization that performs abortions. Indeed, when Texas made a similar move to eliminate Medicaid funding to abortion-providers in 2013, the incidence of many crucial women’s health procedures among low-income women declined by as much as 30%. And yet, once again, Republican legislators are putting women, the poor, and their state’s taxpayers out in the cold in an exceptionally misguided and stupid way.
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James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.