House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) indicated Thursday that congressional Republicans might push to defund Planned Parenthood using the budget reconciliation process.
Ryan was asked at his weekly press briefing whether the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would include a provision to redirect hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from Planned Parenthood to women's health care centers that do not provide abortion.
"Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our reconciliation bill," Ryan said.
The reconciliation process allows a simple majority of senators, rather than 60 senators, to pass certain forms of budgetary legislation without the threat of a filibuster. Republicans, who control the Senate 52-48, plan to use reconciliation to repeal major aspects of Obamacare, just as Democrats used reconciliation to amend the law in 2010.
Congressional Republicans passed a bill in 2015 that would have defunded Planned Parenthood in the summer of 2015 after undercover videos were released about the group's organ harvesting operations. Senate Democrats blocked the bill in August, preventing it from coming to a vote. Reconciliation would help Ryan and Republicans avoid stalling tactics after President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
Planned Parenthood received more than $550 million from taxpayers in the 2015 fiscal year, a 5 percent increase from 2014. The government payments accounted for 40 percent of its revenue, according to its 2015 annual report. The group received a huge boost in funding when President Obama took office in 2009 and repealed the Mexico City Policy, which bans the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion in foreign aid.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which was overseen by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave Planned Parenthood $100 million between 2010 and 2012. The group continued to rake in taxpayer cash throughout 2015 and 2016, winning nearly $28 million in awards from federal agencies.
Pro-life groups hailed Ryan's decision. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said that redirecting money given to Planned Parenthood would be a better use of taxpayer dollars, highlighting the fact Planned Parenthood facilities do not have mammogram machines despite receiving money for cancer screening and other health care services. Many community health centers have access to such machines.
"Today’s commitment by Speaker Ryan to re-direct the abortion giant's taxpayer funding to community health centers is a victory for women’s health care. Community health centers provide far more services than Planned Parenthood and outnumber them 20 to 1 nationwide," she said in a release. "We commend Speaker Paul Ryan on his continued resolve to fund women's health care, not abortion."
Ryan's announcement came as new polls were released showing that a majority of voters in 2018 battleground states oppose taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. SBA List polled 1,650 voters in Montana, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin—all seats Democrats are defending in 2018 elections.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they oppose taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood, with 47 percent saying they strongly oppose funding the group. Forty percent supported taxpayer funding, while only 28 percent said they strongly supported it. The poll found that a senator's position on the issue could affect their support from voters: 60 percent said they would be less likely to vote for someone who supports funding Planned Parenthood, while 27 percent said they would be more likely to support such a politician.
"Voters agree: taxpayer dollars would be better spent on community and rural health centers that provide comprehensive, whole-woman care, not abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood," Dannenfelser said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said the group will fight to keep its taxpayer funding.
"Defunding Planned Parenthood is dangerous to people's health, it's unpopular, and it would leave people across the country without care," she said. "The millions of supporters across the country are ready to defend care with everything we've got."