Md. Democrats Vow Fight for Planned ParenthoodDecember 5, 2016 |
by Mina Haq and Sydney Tonic, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Baltimore resident Annie Sageng relied on Planned Parenthood for many different reasons while growing up.
In high school, she drove her friends there to pick up birth control and pregnancy tests. Eventually she was the one picking up the birth control. Then she was a volunteer. Now, the 28-year-old is the Maryland Planned Parenthood community outreach coordinator.
“It was always there as something we can all depend on, as a nonjudgmental source, as a nonjudgmental place that we could go,” Sageng said. “Especially now, it helps me feel like there’s somewhere to turn and there’s something to do,” she said.
Although President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood as long as it provides abortions, several of Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers said that despite their party’s minority status in Congress, they will fight every effort to do so.
“This will be an ongoing battle,” Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic congressman who was elected to the Senate last month, said in an interview with Capital News Service. “It’s unfortunate that in the 21st century we’re still having to wage this battle, but we will fight tooth and nail to prevent Donald Trump and the Republicans from turning back the clock on women’s rights.”
Maryland Planned Parenthood typically receives 100 donations per week. In the week after Republican nominee Trump’s surprising election victory, it received 1,700 online donations, 350 of which were made in Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s name, according to spokeswoman Dana Robinson.
“Planned Parenthood has done very good work for millions of women,” Trump said at a Florida press conference in March. “But we’re not going to allow, and we’re not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood.”
Maryland Planned Parenthood CEO and President Karen Nelson said in an interview with Capital News Service that there are definite anxieties among women worried they will lose their birth control after inauguration. Maryland has seven Planned Parenthood locations that offer abortions, birth control, care for sexually transmitted diseases and general health care. Sixty percent of her patients do not receive health care outside of Planned Parenthood, Nelson said.
“We’re telling people to continue to enroll in the Affordable Care Act, and continue to make the appointments with us to get their birth control,” Nelson said. “We’re going to be there for them.”
Van Hollen and Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat, said their constituents have expressed concern about the future of women’s health care in Maryland.
“I have heard from women since (Election Day) who have expressed real fear that progress that they have made could be jeopardized,” Cardin said.
Federal funding of abortions, which comprise 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services nationally, is banned under what is known as the Hyde Amendment. The law excludes abortion from healthcare services provided to low-income people by Medicaid, except for cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger. Maryland is one of four states that voluntarily funds all or most medically necessary abortions.
In January, President Barack Obama vetoed legislation that would have abolished federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Republican lawmakers put the provision under an Affordable Care Act repeal bill and used a reconciliation procedure that speeds up the legislative process for budgetary legislation and blocks any Democratic filibuster, which GOP congressional legislators are considering using again after Trump takes office, Politico reported.
“(Maryland Democrats) would use our powers to block any of that kind of legislation,” Van Hollen said. “It’s unclear whether Republicans could try to achieve their goals in this area by using budget reconciliation. But that’s an issue, that’s a real issue.”
Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers serve 2.8 million people in the United States, and 79 percent of the organization’s health care patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, according to its website.
Sageng said Planned Parenthood losing government funding would devastate her because it would “wipe out so many people’s livelihood.”
“It becomes hard to talk about succinctly,” she said, “because it’s just so unthinkable.”
In fiscal 2015, 43 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding came from federal government health services grants and reimbursements, while 27 percent came from private contributions and 24 percent came from non-government health services revenue, according to the organization’s 2015 annual report.
Although Trump has suggested he will appoint Supreme Court judges to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion a state issue, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who is personally anti-abortion, has said in the past the issue of abortion is settled and he would not try to change it in Maryland.
Maryland Federation of Republican Women President Liz League said it is too early to assume what Trump will do once he is sworn into office. League is personally opposed to government funding of abortion, but approves federal funding of other health care services.
“He is not a radical person, he’s not a hard right person and I believe that he understands Planned Parenthood does provide services beyond the abortion services,” she said.
Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Towson and Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who will replace Van Hollen in representing the state’s 8th District, both said they would oppose any Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. Maryland’s other Democratic lawmakers did not respond to request for comment.
Rep. Andy Harris of Cockeysville, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, also did not respond to a request for comment. Harris, who supported Trump in the general election, has said he considers himself pro-life and voted against federal funds being used to provide abortions. He was also appointed in 2015 to a House panel created to investigate Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers’ medical procedures.
Republicans last month doubled the budget for the panel, which has not found evidence of wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood. Van Hollen called it a “witch hunt” and “gross abuse of the process” in an interview with Capital News Service, while Harris said in 2015 it was “an honor to be asked to serve on the select panel that will investigate the deeply disturbing activities that have been ongoing at abortion providers.”
If Republicans want to reduce the rate of abortion, Raskin said, it is important to invest in contraceptive care and sex education.
“I don’t think anybody’s interested in turning the clock back to moral majority politics from the 1980s,” Raskin said. “That’s way out of date.”
For Sageng, it means something that the polarizing election cycle has pushed women’s health issues to the forefront.
“I have had lots of people come up to me at events,” she said, “and say things like, ‘You were there for me when I had no health care, you were there for me when I had no insurance, you were there for me when I was poor, you were there for me when I was a teenager. I wouldn’t be able to be a mother today if it wasn’t for Planned Parenthood. I wouldn’t be here today.'”