Michigan State University

Snyder: Planned Parenthood defunding plan ‘unconstitutional

Jon Harrison

Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature on Tuesday approved a $56.8 billion budget for next year that seeks to kill aid for Planned Parenthood despite a warning from GOP Gov. Rick Snyder the ban may be unconstitutional. 

The Planned Parenthood drama punctuated an otherwise smooth budget process for legislative leaders and the term-limited governor, who reached broad agreement on the budget last month after officials identified a $500 million surplus.

The budget deal includes $330 million in extra funding for road repairs and transportation projects next year, $100 million for Snyder’s new talent attraction plan and the largest per-pupil school funding boost of its kind since 2002.

Snyder cannot line-item veto boilerplate budget language. But Senate Democrats who voted for the general government spending bill appeared confident the governor will declare the Planned Parenthood provision unenforceable, an approach he has frequently employed in past years.

The $39.9 billion general government budget cleared the Senate in a 33-2 vote  prior to a narrower 66-43 vote in the House. A separate $16.8 billion education bill passed the House 63-46 and the Senate 25-11.

The controversial Planned Parenthood language would prohibit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from contracting for non-abortion family planning and reproductive services with an entity that also performs abortions, unless there are no alternative providers in the same county.

“This is a philosophical issue among members of the Legislature who believe in life and (are) pro-life,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “This is an opportunity to invest in organizations that will do more in terms of advancing the pro-life cause, protecting the unborn.”

Michigan already has a law directing the health department to prioritize family planning funding for groups. A “reenact-publish” clause in the state Constitution generally prohibits legislators from changing existing statute through boilerplate budget language.

“We are concerned the language is unconstitutional, and have shared those concerns with our legislative partners,” said Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton.

Democrats pointed to existing law as they bashed the Planned Parenthood ban in conference committee, where majority Republicans rejected a proposed amendment that would have stripped the divisive language from the budget bill. 

“This is geared at preventing abortion rather than making sure women have access to quality health care,” said Rep. Fred Durhal III, D-Detroit. “Women in our state deserve to have the right to choose what is done with their bodies. As state government, we should not be trying to legislate against that.”

Michigan contracts with several organizations to provide family planning services, which can include information on birth control and sexual health, pregnancy testing and counseling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and preventative health exams to screen for cancer or other health issues.

The services are partially funded by the federal Title X program at clinics across the state, including Planned Parenthood facilities in Detroit and the counties of Berrien, Emmet, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Marquette, Mecosta, Muskegon, Oakland, Saginaw, Washtenaw and Wayne.

Lori Carpentier, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, called the budget language a “targeted attack on patients” who choose the organization for basic preventative services.

Planned Parenthood served 45,823 patients in the Title X Family Planning program in 2017 — nearly 70 percent of the full Michigan caseload, Carpentier said.

“This is a policy introduced for political gain and at the expense of Michigan’s women and families,” she said. “They deserve better.”

Planned Parenthood’s family planning contract is worth about $4.4 million this year, said state health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin. The department opposes the budget language, which would affect funding in 10 counties and services to 20,424 men and women, Sutfin said.

Right to Life of Michigan President Barb Listing accused the state of ignoring the priority funding law and said she thinks “the governor has been given bad information” about the constitutionality of the budget provision.

For the full article, see Jonathan Oosting, "Snyder: Planned Parenthood defunding plan ‘unconstitutional’", Detroit News, June 12, 2018.

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