Pro-life supporters have vowed to fight for the lives of babies, and are not willing to wait for the Supreme Court’s help any longer.
Conservative activists — apparently tired of waiting for the highest court to rule in their favor or for congressional Republicans’ to defund Planned Parenthood — are now launching an aggressive new strategy to defeat abortion state by state.
Over the past year, more than a dozen states have sought to halt or reduce public funding for Planned Parenthood. The latest to join the offensive is Florida; GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that bars Planned Parenthood from accessing state funds.
“It’s been a non-stop assault — with devastating consequences,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “At what point do you hit a tipping point where it has same impact as if a federal bill had passed?”
Planned Parenthood is a national target because of its role as the largest U.S. abortion provider. Federal law and the laws of most states already prevent public money from paying for abortions except in rare circumstances, but the recent defunding bills prohibit state money for any services by an organization that also provides abortions.
During debate in Florida, state Sen. Aaron Bean offered this rationale: “We pay their light bill, we pay their salaries, we pay all kinds of things when the state contracts with these clinics… Let’s get Florida out of the abortion business.”
Many of the measures surfaced after anti-abortion activists began releasing secretly recorded videos last July alleging that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law.
Republican governors and lawmakers have cited the videos as justification for defunding.
States where defunding has been blocked by litigation include Alabama, Louisiana and Utah. In some other states, the impact of defunding may be slight — Mississippi, for example, is pursuing that step even though Planned Parenthood received less than $1,000 in state money in each of the past five years.
However, Planned Parenthood says the cuts have had tangible impact in several states, such as Texas,
Texas was one of the first states to target Planned Parenthood’s funding, saying it would not send Medicaid funds to organizations that provided abortions. The Republican-led state government culminated a multiyear effort by ousting Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program in 2013 and opting to fund the program entirely with state money so it would not run afoul of federal law.
John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right To Life, acknowledged there was a dip in the number of women served after Planned Parenthood was defunded. However, he said Texas has made progress in rebuilding a network of facilities that provide women’s health care, with more providers now than in 2010.
In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood has been the target of defunding efforts since Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2011. Walker signed a bill that year eliminating all state funding for Planned Parenthood health centers, contributing to the closure of five rural clinics.
In February, Walker signed two bills that together are expected to cost Planned Parenthood $8 million per year in federal funds — including $3.5 million for family planning. The bills require state health officials to seek federal funding in the future on behalf of “less controversial providers.
Amid his presidential campaign, Ohio’s GOP Gov. John Kasich signed a bill in February designed to strip about $1.3 million in government money from the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Stephanie Ranade Krider, who advocated for the funding cuts as executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said the political message was more important that the amount of the cutback.
“When we look at the whole picture, it’s like a drop in the bucket,” she said. “The public relations impact is much more significant — it makes a statement that Ohio will no longer be doing business with the abortion industry.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.