House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Republicans will — once again — vote to cut off federal tax dollars for Planned Parenthood. They are planning to include the measure as part of a bigger upcoming bill to repeal pillars of Obamacare. This isn’t the first time that they have tried to pass this type of legislation — President Obama vetoed a similar bill last January.
But with a Republican president about to take office, the party now has the best chance in more than a decade to get it signed into law. They also have a powerful legislative tool on their side: special budget rules that will let them offer their proposal on a measure that only needs 51 votes — meaning a Democratic filibuster can’t stop it. But the path to victory might not be totally clear, as President-elect Trump’s position on abortion has wavered and allies of Planned Parenthood vow not to go down without a fight.
Here are four key points to keep in mind as the parties gear up for a fight on Capitol Hill:
1. Planned Parenthood is not directly funded by the government, but it does receive payment from federal funds
This is a key distinction. While Planned Parenthood is not funded directly by the government, it does receive payment and grants from federal programs. Planned Parenthood’s clinics provide a number of health services, mostly for low-income women. And so consequently, the organization often bills Medicaid for reimbursement. It also receives funding through Title X, a federal grant program for family planning services. However, neither Medicaid nor Title X fund the abortion services, which many people associate with Planned Parenthood. Medicaid does have some narrow exceptions for this in the case of rape, incest or life of mother.
And this gets at the heart of one of the nation’s longest running and divisive political debates — not only to what extent the federal government should direct its fiscal policy on women’s health matters, but whether abortion should be legal at all.
2. Planned Parenthood has become increasingly polarized: Targeted by the GOP, championed by Democrats
Planned Parenthood has been a political target for years. But recently, the partisan polarization has gone beyond abortion rights and into any federal funds going to the organization. Republicans have more vehemently opposed Planned Parenthood in recent years for facilitating the transfer of fetal tissue for medical research. Concern over this practice led Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa to recently refer several Planned Parenthood affiliates to the FBI and the Department of Justice for further investigation. The issue of tissue transfer also became the subject of a select committee review, which released a heavily critical report this week.