Maryland Lawmakers Push State Funding for Planned Parenthood

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Democratic lawmakers demonstrated their support Wednesday in Annapolis for legislation to continue funding Planned Parenthood’s health care services if the federal government guts its backing of the program.

Republicans in two U.S. House of Representatives’ committees submitted a draft Monday of their plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

One key component of the bill would defund Planned Parenthood, which nationwide receives about $500 million of federal money. The organization currently receives grant money under Medicaid and the Title X Family Planning Program.

Title X is a federal program dedicated to family planning and preventative health services, including cancer screening, STI testing and contraception. It cannot be used for abortions.

Maryland receives about $4 million in Title X funding annually, but Congress could undercut the amount Planned Parenthood receives with the new bill.

In response to the Affordable Care Act’s unclear future, Maryland lawmakers have cross-filed bills in the state House and Senate that would provide funding to women’s health services.

The House bill, sponsored by Delegate Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, aims to put $2 million from the Medicaid budget and $700,000 from the general funds budget to ensure these family planning services are continued for Marylanders.

“This is about protecting the citizens of Maryland and keeping them in good health,” Pendergrass said. “We will not let the federal government mess up the state of Maryland. It’s time we stand up to the the things that are going on in Congress.”

However, Sen. Michael Hough, R-Carroll and Frederick, called the bill a “total political stunt.”

Hough called Planned Parenthood a “partisan group” that is among the largest providers of abortions, adding that other health care providers could absorb the group’s patient base and ensure they get preventative and family planning care they need, such as mammograms.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said that health care organizations have been consistently funded in each of the governor’s three budgets. Any future budgetary changes or decisions would be announced during the FY 2019 budget process, she added.

In 2014, Maryland’s Title X program has prevented about 15,000 unintended pregnancies and 1,018 STIs, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Under these proposals, nearly 25,000 Maryland women could lose access to reproductive health services at Planned Parenthood, according Karen Nelson, president and CEO of Maryland’s Planned Parenthood.

“If we were to defund Planned Parenthood, it would be a public health disaster,” said Delegate Ariana Kelly, D-Montgomery. “Maryland intends to be there for the health of women. …We are not going to fall backwards.”

By Natalie Schwartz

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