Renee Ellmers Pitches Abortion-Defunding Bill that Continues Funding

Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP
Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

U.S. abortion-giant Planned Parenthood would keep almost 90 percent of its taxpayer revenue if Congress passed a supposed “defunding” bill introduced by NC Rep. Renee Ellmers, a close ally of the GOP’s leadership.

Dubbed the Women’s Health Accountability Act, the measure would cut Planned Parenthood’s revenue from the federal government’s Title X rules and also require a paperwork review of the abortion group’s services.

But those Title X funds comprise only $60 million of the $500 million that the group gets from the federal government each year.

“We have to go after the almost half a billion dollars that is funneled to Planned Parenthood… until you go after that, you’re really not doing the right thing,” countered economist Frank Roche, who will challenge Ellmers in her 2016 primary. She’s vulnerable, in part, because she derailed a popular pro-life bill in January.

None of the federal money goes directly to Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, but it supports much of the group’s overhead and abortion clinics.

Tennessee GOP Rep. Diane Black is offering rival legislation that would transfer funding away from Planned Parenthood. But she’s willing to work with Ellmers and her backers in the GOP leadership, which do not want a year-end budget fight over abortions.

“I am eager to work with any Member of Congress to combat federal funding of Planned Parenthood and I appreciate the measure put forth by my friend,” Black said in a statement. “Having said that, I continue to believe that the best course of action is for Congress to pass a bill addressing all federal funding streams to Planned Parenthood,” Black added.

“I believe there are more than enough lingering questions to warrant a complete halt of the money flow to this abortion giant while Congress carries out its investigations.”

A bill to eliminate federal funds to Planned Parenthood has become a major issue facing House leaders, particularly Speaker John Boehner, who faces a genuine threat to his re-election. Conservatives in the House want a cut-off of funding for Planned Parenthood to be a priority in the fall budget debate.

“Personally, there’s no way I’m going to vote for something that gives money to this organization in light of what we discovered,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan recently told CQ Roll Call.

Similarly, Rep. Tim Huelskamp said, “Values voters will be outraged if a Republican House and Senate, who campaigned on a pro-life majority and [said] we’re going to make a difference on life issues, don’t do something about it in September.”

According to The Hill, Ellmers’s bill is being viewed as a simpler route for Republican leaders seeking to avoid a government shutdown over funding Planned Parenthood.

Ellmers garnered significant media attention earlier in the year when she led a group of mostly Republican women in the House in a move to shut down a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a measure that would ban abortions in the United States past the fifth month of pregnancy.

Ellmers said the bill’s provisions on rape and incest were too restrictive and could hurt the GOP’s efforts to reach out to women and young people. Republican leadership pulled the bill from the floor of the House. When the pro-life base of the Republican Party was appalled by the debacle, Ellmers took to her blog and described the pro-life community as “abhorrent” and “childish.”

After much pressure from the pro-life community, the House ultimately passed the Pain-Capable bill in May, on the second anniversary of the conviction of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of murdering infants born alive during abortion procedures.

“I’m glad Renée Ellmers wants to defund Planned Parenthood, but this is somewhat typical of her,” Roche said:

I think the total discretionary grants to Planned Parenthood under Title X are less than $100 million, so while we want to take away as much money as we can, you know she’s really going for the low-hanging fruit. And this seems more symbolic than substantive to me. Rep. Ellmers has been introducing lots of bills this year, and the leadership seems to be giving her room to get some bills through. I think they recognize the damage that she did to herself already this year, and are trying to help her cover that up.

Roche says if he were in Congress right now, he would be joining with other House conservatives in an aggressive and deliberate drive to redirect funding away from Planned Parenthood.

Roche said the shocking videos produced by Center for Medical Progress that exposed Planned Parenthood’s gruesome organ-trading business have had a huge impact. “I can’t imagine anyone – even an honest Democrat – after seeing the videos and the dissection of fetuses, can any longer support the idea that Planned Parenthood is advocating for women’s health,” he said.

But the GOP’s leadership doesn’t want a budget fight over Planned Parenthood, Roche said. “We even saw our leadership in Congress weaken under the idea that we can’t move ahead because President Obama is going to veto any legislation that will attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.”

“Fine. Let it play out,” Roche said. “The idea that he’s going to veto it should not be the basis for not moving forward, for not sending a powerful message.”

In a statement on her website, Ellmers defended her legislation:

This legislation implements a study to provide answers for outstanding questions on this matter. By requiring a thorough, two-year study of Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide, we will obtain answers as to how taxpayer dollars are used at Planned Parenthood and which medical services are prioritized with these federal funds. These are facts we have yet to discover but important details that must not be overlooked in the quest for answers.

This legislation is a way we can continue providing health services for women while also demanding accountability of taxpayer dollars. Upon passage of this legislation, funding for Planned Parenthood would be frozen and would become immediately available to health centers through a grant process. These centers are a better alternative for women’s healthcare, as they offer primary care and preventative health services such as mammograms and immunizations. Furthermore, they are far more prevalent nationwide and transparent with taxpayer dollars.

As The Hill notes, however, Ellmers’s bill “would make only a dent in Planned Parenthood’s entire $1 billion budget.” The nation’s largest abortion provider would have $60 million cut of its $500 million in federal dollars according to the measure. The group would still receive, however, its primary source of federal funding through Medicaid, which currently is part of the federal government’s mandatory spending. Additionally, Ellmers’s legislation does not prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving Obamacare “navigator” grants and any other grants provided by the Obama administration without the approval of Congress.

For example, even with the recent video scandal and while Planned Parenthood is under congressional investigation, the Obama administration awarded last week more than $1 million in navigator grants to several Planned Parenthood facilities for their efforts to help sign people up for Obamacare during the upcoming open enrollment period.


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