By JOSHUA BENDER
Capital News Service
LANSING – A new bill would make permanent last year’s ban on state funding for abortion providers.
Many proponents of the bill want measures ensuring state funds aren’t used to violate what they believe is the public’s consensus on abortion in Michigan.
“This bill does not close a single Planned Parenthood or outlaw abortion,” said Genevieve Marnon, public affairs associate at Right to Life of Michigan’s Mid-Michigan Resource Center. “It only addresses the use of state taxpayer dollars.”
Some opponents of the bill argue it would harm the ability of agencies receiving state funds to fulfill their obligations to the public.
“This would tie the hands of public health workers in the future should needs arise for family planning in areas where Planned Parenthood can pick up what is needed,” said Amanda West, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
Some proponents of the bill argue it is necessary to cut all funding to agencies providing abortion services because of fears they may misuse funds intended for family planning services. The House and Senate last year successfully removed funding for Planned Parenthood from the state’s annual budget.
“They are getting money to provide STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing and birth control, but that money is then used to shore up the rest of their organization, and to hire more staff and buy equipment,” Marnon said. “It frees up some of their other funds to be used to provide abortions.”
West said that fear is unfounded.
“We are audited multiple times a year by multiple agencies, including the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as several federal agencies,” West said. “They can all attest federal funds are never used for abortion.
“The majority of the services we provide are by and large family planning and women’s health services. We do more to prevent unintended pregnancies and abortion than anyone else in the state.”
Planned Parenthood’s critics say abortion services are counterintuitive to promoting women’s health.
“If Planned Parenthood wanted to get out of the abortion business and become a genuine women’s health organization, we would be fine providing them with state funding,” Marnon said.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, takes personal issue with Planned Parenthood.
“Obviously Planned Parenthood’s goal is to end the life of what they would call unwanted children,” Hooker said. “They say a woman should have a right to choose. Choose what? Choose abortion, that is the foundational principal of that organization.”
Regardless of the other services Planned Parenthood provides, the organization’s decision to provide abortions makes giving Planned Parenthood state funding unconscionable, according to Hooker.
“You can’t separate the fact that they are killing babies from anything they may attempt to do,” he said. “There are multiple organizations that do everything that Planned Parenthood does without killing babies.”
But West said that the bill is more politically motivated than focused on lowering abortion rates.
“This is an ideological fight against Planned Parenthood at a time when we should be discussing reinvesting in family planning,” she said.
While much of the discourse surrounding the bill centers on Planned Parenthood, the law would apply to all Michigan abortion providers.
“Obviously Planned Parenthood was singled out,” Marnon said.
The state ceased funding Planned Parenthood but still relies on the organization, according to West.
“The state has asked us multiple times to pick up where local agencies are unwilling or unable to provide family planning services using the federal funds planned parenthood receives,” West said.
Low-income women aged 20 to 34 are the demographic mostly commonly served by Planned Parenthood, according to the organization’s 2014 statistics.
For 75 percent of patients, the organization’s services will be the only medical treatment they receive in a given year.
“The most important economic decision a woman makes is if and when to have a child. If Rep. Hooker and his colleagues choose to pass this legislation, they are making that decision for them,” West said.
By JOSHUA BENDER