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Friday, February 23, 2024

Legislature hears testimony on proposal to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood

An Assembly health committee heard testimony on two bills Wednesday that would further restrict Planned Parenthood’s operations in Wisconsin.

The first of the two bills, both authored by state Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere, and state Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, would allow the state to become the administrator for Title X grants and prioritize funding state-run health programs over private organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood receives $3.5 million in funding under the grant program each year and is the only organization that receives Title X money in the state. The organization has received no money directly from the state since 2011, when the legislature voted to remove that funding from the state budget.

Jacque argued that his bill would break a monopoly in providing health services to women in Wisconsin and that the proposal would actually increase the availability of some services.

“Planned Parenthood’s monopoly on this denies access … to different venues of treatment for individuals,” Jacque said.

Attendees of the meeting heard testimony that was similar to that of Republican lawmakers when the Legislature approved a ban on abortions after 20 weeks earlier this summer.

“The women in the womb are just as important as the women on the outside [of the womb],” Kapenga said.

Committee Democrats argued the bill would further hamper efforts to administer treatment to women in rural areas.

“There is no plan here,” state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, said. “You just continue on the warpath to defund Planned Parenthood.”

Other Democrats said that the bill was purely about political issues and not about family planning.

“If your goal is to create a more comprehensive plan, why not include Planned Parenthood in that plan?" asked state Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison. “It’s about Planned Parenthood providing abortions and not about the quality of care received.”

While the bill co-authors spent over an hour testifying, the committee also heard from interest groups and citizens both for and against the bill.

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“Why does Planned Parenthood feel as though they deserve taxpayer money for these services?” Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, asked. “We don’t believe that our money should go to promoting abortion.”

The second bill would prevent clinics such as Planned Parenthood from obtaining discounted medications, which it can currently do via Medicaid. The bill would instead require these organizations to bill Medicaid at the actual acquisition cost.

Legislative Republicans have grown more interested in Planned Parenthood following the release of videos taken by abortion opponents that show the organization officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue, a practice banned by federal law. The Legislature is also considering a bill that would ban fetal tissue research statewide.

If approved by the committee, the full Assembly could vote on the bills later this session.

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