WATSONVILLE — When Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate on March 30, he helped overturn an Obama-era rule that forbade states from denying grants to organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
In overturning the rule, the lawmakers cleared the way for states to roll back so-called Title X funding for clinics that provide abortion.
Conservative states can now begin to go after Planned Parenthood’s Title X funding, which supports family planning and health services for millions of low-income and uninsured people.
Left-leaning states such as California, where residents and lawmakers largely support the organization, aren’t currently at risk.
But Pence’s vote was likely the opening salvo in an attack on Planned Parenthood by the Right, which has been critical of the organization because it provides abortion services.
President Donald Trump, along with several Republican lawmakers, have made it a central talking point to “defund” the organization, despite the fact that federal rules forbid the use of Medicaid dollars to be used for abortion services.
Those threats also come despite the fact that abortion makes up just three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.
Several groups, including Susan B. Anthony List, Family Research Council and March for Life, have pressured lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood, saying that they don’t want any tax money to go to organizations that provide abortion.
The first proposal to do so died with the failed GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
If defunding efforts are successful, either through a budget bill or a house resolution, it would mean a loss of care for an estimated 60,000 patients at three clinics in Watsonville, Seaside, Gilroy and Santa Cruz, said Planned Parenthood Mar Monte spokeswoman Lupe Rodriguez.
Statewide, the cut would mean a loss of $178 million, and would affect 850,000 patients in California.
It would mean a $500 million loss for health care providers across the U.S.
“We serve a high population of people who basically come to us for their primary care,” she said. “We are of course very concerned about the ongoing discussion to put forth proposals to cut funding for patients.”
Services that are at stake include primary care, mental health counseling, reproductive care, birth control, HIV testing and screenings for men and women, Rodriguez said.
“It could be a huge public health care crisis if we weren’t able to provide those services,” she said.
Rodriguez said that community members have increased their financial support in the months since Trump was elected, and that the organization is engaging in fundraising.
“We’re super proud of the work we do in the Watsonville area,” Rodriguez said. “We’re still around, and we’re still fighting to provide those services.”