STATE AND LOCAL

States push to protect abortion funding, despite GOP healthcare fail

Republicans and pro-life groups say the funding will go to local healthcare providers that steer clear of abortions; James Rosen has the details for 'Special Report'

 

Healthcare is on hold in Washington after the first Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to attract necessary support to pass. But that’s not stopping Democratic lawmakers in states across the nation who are pushing legislation to protect birth control access, Planned Parenthood funding and abortion coverage before the GOP comes up with another option.

This year alone, 14 states – Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington – are considering 12-month prescription requirements to make it easier and cheaper for women to stay on the pill. Maryland passed a similar plan in 2015, which is set to take effect in 2018.

In Nevada, state lawmakers and health care advocates plan to continue to promote bills that would allow women a similar 12-month access to birth control supplies, and require all health insurers to cover contraceptives at no extra charge, regardless of religious objections.

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Another Nevada proposal looks to provide alternative funding to help organizations like Planned Parenthood, which was at risk of losing federal funding had the Republican bill, American Health Care Act, passed the House of Representatives last Friday.

“Nevadans need these protections regardless of what’s happening in Congress,” Elisa Cafferata, president of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates said. “Family planning and preventative health care are still very much threatened.”

The American Health Care Act, introduced and pushed by House Republican leadership, would have defunded Planned Parenthood, which pro-choice lawmakers blasted as government overreach and pro-life lawmakers dismissed as not going far enough.

The AHCA planned to add more than $420 million to women’s community health centers, but prohibited Medicaid money from going to centers that provide abortions.

So Democratic state lawmakers are now trying to thwart any effort to pull funding from these groups – by using state coffers to replace federal funding cuts.

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In addition to Maryland’s plan to continue with one-year birth control coverage, the Maryland State Legislature plans to continue work on a bill that maintains family planning services provided by Planned Parenthood if the group ever lost federal funding, and would direct $2 million from Maryland’s Medicaid budget and $700,000 from the state’s general fund to family planning.

The bill’s sponsor, state Delegate Shane Pendergrass, said Maryland would be “unwise” to assume that congressional Republicans were finished with efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“Could this come back in six months? Maybe,” she said. “Do we want to make sure we’re prepared if something happens? You bet we do.”

Those in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood say it makes more sense to pour money into health centers that provide broader services.  

“Our goal is making sure women get the kind of care they need and we believe that can best be achieved by putting money into community health centers, which provide similar services as Planned Parenthood but vastly outnumber them,” AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, told Fox News when the bill was introduced.

When the Congressional Budget Office did its analysis of the American Health Care Act earlier this month, it estimated that thousands of women on Medicaid would lose access to “services that help women to avert pregnancies” if federal funding for Planned Parenthood was cut.

Despite Planned Parenthood’s victory after the AHCA was removed from the table, the national president said their fight is not over.

“We know this is the beginning, not the end,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said. “We will never stop fighting for the 2.5 million people who count on us each year.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.