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Why It's Actually Hard to Defund Planned Parenthood

Why It's Actually Hard to Defund Planned Parenthood

By Jennifer Memmolo

For better or worse, Planned Parenthood has been the talk of the town this summer. Thanks to a series of videos released by anti-choice advocates, the organization has faced serious scrutiny from conservative members of Congress, who decided to pull out their old "Let's Defund Planned Parenthood" flags.

Republican presidential hopefuls jumped on the bandwagon, too, with nearly every candidate vowing to defund and punish Planned Parenthood for offering abortion services at all.

Except here's the thing: Defunding Planned Parenthood is actually kind of hard and almost certainly illegal. You can thank Medicaid for that — that's where the majority of Planned Parenthood's funding comes from.

One of the requirements of Medicaid is that patients have the freedom to see the provider of their choice. Once qualified as a provider, an organization cannot be disqualified for providing a service just because the state doesn't agree with its services.

Fun fact: Medicaid funds can't be used by Planned Parenthood to fund abortions at all, except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother's life. It's actually illegal to use Medicaid funds for abortion unless it meets one of those statutes — this is thanks to the Hyde Amendment.

Most of the time, when a politician says that he wants to "defund" Planned Parenthood, he simply reduces the amount of state funding for the organization. This is despite what the governors of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas moved to do last week when they announced their respective decisions to cut ties with the women's health provider. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has warned states eager to jump on the "defunding" train that their actions may be in breach of federal law.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images