Planned Parenthood's tax dollar gravy train just got derailed

Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Hill on May 22, 2018.

Americans owe a debt of gratitude to President Trump and the good people in his administration. After nearly 50 years, the law marking a bright line between “family planning” and abortion will finally be respected.

In 1970 Congress passed Title X of the Public Health Service Act to provide tax-supported family planning services for low-income Americans.

Did Congress mean to pay for aborting babies too? Of course not, and that is why they specified: “no funds…shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

So why has Planned Parenthood hundreds of millions of our tax dollars over the years, including through Title X? Because who’s in charge of enforcing the nation’s laws really matters.

For nearly 20 years, the law was interpreted to allow Title X tax dollars to pay for abortion counseling and referrals.The Reagan administration drafted regulations to change all of this. Title X was never meant to promote abortion and Americans’ tax dollars would no longer be misused in this way.

Planned Parenthood and other Title X grantees, bent on continuing to misuse tax dollars this way, filed suit claiming the Reagan regulations were unconstitutional.

But in the landmark case of Rust v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court disagreed. No, said the Court, you can’t force taxpayers to underwrite your abortion advocacy and your clients can’t force taxpayers to pay for abortion counseling and referrals. In fact, the government is permitted to favor childbirth over abortion in the way it allocates tax dollars.

That’s another way of saying: elections matter. Pro-life presidents can implement pro-life policies like this one with public funds.

But coming on the eve of the Clinton presidency, this victory was short-lived. The Court-endorsed Reagan regulations never took effect, and worse, Clinton issued regulations requiring providers to refer for abortion, disqualifying pro-life and faith-based groups from participating in the program.

Tragically, the Reagan regulations were not reinstated by the George W. Bush administration and taxpayer money continued to flow to abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood. After nearly 50 years, the Trump administration will finally protect taxpayers from promoting abortion through Title X.

The regulations will require a bright line of physical as well as financial separation between Title X programs and any program (or facility) where abortion is performed, supported, or referred for as a method of family planning. It appears, however, they will not prohibit abortion counseling with Title X tax monies.

Planned Parenthood and its allies are bewailing the proposed regulation. But we shouldn’t expect the nation’s abortion giant to give up piles of free taxpayer money without a fight. Planned Parenthood and their cronies vowed to spend $30 million dollars on the midterm elections.

The truth is, there are many, many non-abortion community health centers that provide robust care to low-income women across the nation. In fact, they outnumber Planned Parenthood centers 20 to 1. And not a penny of family planning money will be cut under the proposal.

Planned Parenthood can whine about losing its gravy train — or it could just comply with the law.

If Planned Parenthood wants taxpayer cash, then it should drop abortion services from centers that get Title X dollars and move them offsite. That shouldn’t be too hard for an operation that claims only 3 percent of its services are abortion services (a claim many outside sources dispute).

Or just knock on some wealthy Democrat doors. Last year, Planned Parenthood’s private donors gave them over half a billion dollars, an increase of nearly $90 million from the year before. That amount far exceeds its take from taxpayer pockets, at least under Title X.

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood can still expect taxpayer cash under Medicaid reimbursements and other federal programs — more than $400 million every year. But the promised Title X regulation moves the ball in the right direction, significantly.