Obama admin to Louisiana, Alabama: You can't defund Planned Parenthood

Can states restrict Medicaid funding to keep it from flowing to the nation’s largest abortion-mill chain? The Obama administration says no, and has fired warning shots across bows of two states that moved to block funds to Planned Parenthood. Louisiana and Alabama both vowed to cut off funds as a series of undercover investigative videos exposes their business practices on organ harvesting and revenue, but the White House warned yesterday that they do not have that authority:

[T]he White House points out that federal law says Medicaid beneficiaries may obtain services from any qualified provider and that cutting Planned Parenthood out of the program restricts that choice.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) has contacted Louisiana and Alabama about the issue.

“CMS has notified states who have taken action to terminate their Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law,” Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement.

“Longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider,” he said. “By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings.”

That argument is nonsense on stilts. Planned Parenthood is not the only provider of cancer screenings. In fact, no Planned Parenthood clinic does mammograms despite repeated assertions about their breast cancer screenings. Women would be better off looking for other clinics that offer more comprehensive preventive services. They can use their Medicaid coverage at a wide range of clinics in most areas that do not perform abortions, and that do not harvest fetal organs for cash.

However — and this is important to remember — on legal grounds, the Obama administration is correct, at least for now. There are two programs through which Planned Parenthood gets federal funds, Title X and Medicaid. Congress funds Title X for family planning services, and can block Planned Parenthood from receiving those funds at any time, assuming they can pass such a bill and get a President to sign it. Medicaid, on the other hand, has guarantees for patient choice, which federal courts have upheld in the past as a higher priority than government bars on certain providers. If a clinic takes Medicaid patients and remains otherwise in good standing, Medicaid has to reimburse the clinic for covered legitimate services.

In other words, the only way to shut off all federal funds for Planned Parenthood is to put them out of business, and government won’t be able to do that. It will take a sea change of popular opinion about the nature of abortion, and a rising sense of the slaughtered humanity that Planned Parenthood and its allies are doing their best to hide. That is the real value of these videos from Center for Medical Progress, and Ruben Navarette’s essay at the Daily Beast shows the power those videos have:

David Daleiden, head of The Center for Medical Progress, issued an unsurprisingly stronger statement: “Planned Parenthood’s system-wide conspiracy to evade the law and make money off of aborted fetal tissue is now undeniable. Anyone who watches these videos knows that Planned Parenthood is engaged in barbaric practices and human rights abuses that must end.”

I agree with that assessment, and I’m pro-choice. At least I thought I was until recently. These days, each time, I express concern, outrage, disgust, or horror over another video—which should come with warnings that they may produce nightmares—some supporter of the organization responds by attacking me and insisting that I was never really pro-choice to begin with. …

As I’ve only realized lately, to be a man, and to declare yourself pro-choice, is to proclaim your neutrality. And, as I’ve only recently been willing to admit, even to myself, that’s another name for “wimping out.”

At least that’s how my wife sees it. She’s pro-life, and so she’s been tearing into me every time a new video is released. She’s not buying my argument that, as a man, I have to defer to women and trust them to make their own choices about what to do with their bodies. To her, that’s ridiculous—and cowardly.

“You can’t stand on the sidelines, especially now that you’ve seen these videos,” she told me recently. “That’s bullshit! These are babies that are being killed. Millions of them. And you need to use your voice to protect them. That’s what a man does. He protects children—his own children, and other children. That’s what it means to be a man.”

I didn’t like the scolding, but I needed to hear it. For those of us who are pro-choice, the Planned Parenthood videos are a game changer. As to whether that means I’ll change my view, I’m not sure. I’m on the bubble. Ask me in a few weeks, after the release of more videos.

Kudos to Navarette for narrating this journey of cognitive dissonance and disillusionment. This is a path that many of our friends, family, and neighbors need to make. While a fight over Title X funding is worthwhile, we should not let it supercede the real fight — to restore a respect for human life at all its stages, and a need to protect it as well.