This Week in Reproductive Rights: GOP health care bill takes aim at Planned Parenthood


On Monday, House Republicans proposed a frustrating new way to screw over their constituents, including in their subpar Affordable Care Act replacement a provision that would defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level. The proposal would withhold Medicaid funds from the health care organization for one year, while also effectively blocking marketplace plans from covering abortion, a maneuver that's likely to bleed over into the private insurance market.

"One in five women in America has relied on Planned Parenthood, and their health care shouldn't get caught up in congressional Republicans' extreme agenda," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This proposal would deny millions of women access to cancer screenings, birth control and STD testing and treatment."

Studies show that if the GOP is truly interested in scaling back the annual number of abortions nationwide, it should consider funneling money into Planned Parenthood centers — year after year, the data suggest that easier access to contraceptives and sexual education means fewer unwanted pregnancies. It seems unlikely that the GOP would ever do this, just as it seems unlikely that Planned Parenthood would ever accept President Donald Trump's offer to put federal funding back on the table if the health care organization would cut abortion care.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Here's the gist of what else you might have missed this week:

• It turns out that giving women access to birth control wouldn't just be a huge step toward reproductive justice — it would also save the government a boatload of money. A new study commissioned by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund found that increasing access to birth control would dramatically reduce unintended pregnancies and improve the overall health of women and children in the U.S., which would curtail public health care costs by a staggering $12 billion. Some might call it a win-win.

• On Wednesday, women worldwide went on strike. Because women's rights are under fire from myriad angles at the moment, different cities hosted protests centered on different issues. In Dublin, women flooded the streets to protest Ireland's hyper-restrictive abortion amendment that only allows a woman to terminate a pregnancy if her life is at risk. At the #Strike4Repeal, protesters blasted "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper and the Spice Girls' "Wannabe," with an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 aggravated Irish clogging Dublin's streets. Happy International Women's Day, one and all.

Kathy Willens/AP

• Notable male feminist and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on the same day that he would be allocating $650 million in government spending toward global reproductive health initiatives. "For far too many women and girls, unsafe abortions and a lack of choices in reproductive health mean that they either are at risk of death or simply cannot contribute and cannot achieve their potential," he told the the Star.

• Although a federal judge already told them to cut it out, House Republicans in Texas are plowing ahead with their fetal burial and cremation plans. According to the Associated Press, Rep. Byron Cook proposed a new measure requiring health care providers to burn or bury fetal tissue expelled by abortion or by miscarriage. His House committee held a hearing on the legislation Wednesday. The impractical requirement would likely raise the cost of abortion procedures, and also has already been ruled a no-go, so it's unclear what Cook could realistically hope to achieve here. 

• If you were looking for an update on the South Carolina bill that would allow people to stock up on a year-long supply of birth control all at once, here it is: A House panel approved the bill on Wednesday as well as a separate bill that would allow people to receive birth control refills for up to three years without a doctor's prescription. Both pieces of legislation would be a huge step toward removing barriers to birth control access.

• Following in Ohio's footsteps, the Tennessee legislature moved forward on a 20-week abortion ban Wednesday, simultaneously shooting down a "heartbeat bill" that would effectively outlaw the procedure — which, under Roe v. Wade, is legal nationwide up until viability at about 24 weeks — roughly six weeks into pregnancy.