The Freedom Caucus hasn’t yet lost hope that President Trump’s health care bill might be passed, despite House Speaker Paul Ryan having canceled the vote on the Obamacare repeal last Friday. With just over a month before lawmakers will need to issue a short-term funding bill to keep the government open, conservatives will be faced with a litany of questions regarding that legislation. Chief among those questions will concern Planned Parenthood funding — should they block a resolution that continues to fund the women’s health care service?
Yet when asked by The Huffington Post as to where the Freedom Caucus currently sat regarding the inclusion of Planned Parenthood funding in the spending bill, Representative Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho, was quick to return to the subject of health care, saying, “We’re resolute to get this solved.”
The Freedom Caucus has been apportioned a large degree of blame for the recent defeat, with Trump tweeting that the group had effectively helped to save Planned Parenthood by refusing to support the repeal bill. Although the group had been offered a number of concessions by the Trump administration, including regulatory changes to the bill that would have exempted insurers from having to provide benefits including maternity care, the caucus continued to push for the repeal of key pieces of Obamacare that the president was adamant about keeping in place.
With the Republican health care bill now dead, the White House refused on Monday to commit to defunding Planned Parenthood in the upcoming spending bill. Speaking to reporters, press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t comment on whether the president would incorporate defunding in future legislation, indicating that the defeat of the bill had squandered a primary opportunity to make that happen. The bill would have effectively de-funded the organization for a year through cutting off its Medicaid reimbursements.
“I don’t want to get ahead of our legislative strategy,” Spicer said. “We’ll look at other opportunities, but this was definitely one that was a way to make that happen.”
As Democrats, whom the government would need to break a potential filibuster of the bill (making it once again highly dependent on support from the Freedom Caucus), remain deeply opposed to defunding the organization, the Republican party may opt to exclude this issue from the must-pass spending bill, in order to avoid a government shutdown. According to recent research by Yale University lecturer, Miranda Yaver, this would be a wise move for the sake of public health.
Following the Congressional Budget Office’s recent report on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which found that defunding Planned Parenthood would both reduce women’s access to health care and lead to an increase in births, Yaver conducted her own investigation into the impact of the women’s health care provider on the country. She found that because few family planning centers accept Medicaid patients, the public health of a county is strongly correlated with whether or not it has a Planned Parenthood clinic nearby.
According to Yaver’s research, “the more Planned Parenthood clinics in a state in a given year, the fewer teen births and STD diagnoses.” The prevalence of clinics, she discovered, also had an impact on the patient-outcomes of HIV diagnoses and reliance on emergency room care. As such, Yaver concluded that given the economic impact of these health issues, any reduction in the number of women able to access the preventative services offered by Planned Parenthood would have both an adverse impact on public health and a significant cost to federal government.
As uncertainty reigns over whether Planned Parenthood will be targeted in the upcoming funding bill, the future of public health provisions may well fall once again into the hands of the Freedom Caucus.