WASHINGTON — Within the first days of the 113th U.S. Congress, legislation has been introduced to block federal funding of organizations that perform abortions.
A new bill, introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., prohibits the allocation of Title X family-planning funds “to any entity” that performs the procedure.
“As a woman,” Blackburn said in a Jan. 4 press release announcing the legislation, “I believe America deserves better.”
“America shouldn’t celebrate abortion, and our taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, who profit from the destruction of human life with taxpayer money,” she asserted.
“It’s fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.”
Blackburn is the vice chair of the committee that oversees Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X provides federal funding for family planning and similar services, including contraception, natural family planning, infertility counseling, cancer screening and other services.
According to information posted on the Health and Human Services' website, “Section 1008 of the act, as amended, stipulates that ‘none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.’”
While Title X does not directly allocate funds for abortions, many pro-life groups have voiced concerns that program funds given to abortion providers allow them to direct more money towards abortions.
The Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act would ensure that such funds do not promote abortion, even indirectly. The bill provides an exemption for hospitals and would not reduce the total amount of funds available for family-planning services.
The proposed legislation resembles efforts at the state level, including a bill passed in 2011 in Texas, following lawsuits of alleged Medicaid fraud against Planned Parenthood in the state. The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
The new Texas law bars organizations that provide abortion services from receiving state funds from the Texas Women’s Health Program. A district judge recently rejected Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary restraining order against the legislation.
As a result of this defunding, the Obama administration cut off federal money to the Texas program, claiming the new law reduced women's choices in health care. However, according to the Texas Health and Human Services website, “There are five family-planning clinics and more than 70 individual physicians in the program” for every clinic that does not qualify under the new law.
Similar measures denying state funds to abortion providers are under way in Indiana and New Hampshire.
The new federal bill is the House's second attempt to pass the Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, though there are some changes to language and definitions within the proposed legislation. A previous bill was introduced in January 2011 by former Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., but was dropped later that year.