A GOP state senator from central Pennsylvania quietly introduced a bill in Harrisburg last week that, if passed, could decrease funding to Planned Parenthood centers across the state.
Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, last week introduced Senate Bill 300, which prioritizes how Department of Human Services funds earmarked for family planning programs are allocated, starting with non-public hospitals and federally qualified health centers, and then to rural health clinics.
And while Planned Parenthood isn’t named in a memo to colleagues authored by Eichelberger or even in the bill itself, the bill does stipulate that the Department of Health may not enter into a contract with “any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where such abortions are performed.”
Eichelberger’s memo also notes the bill is “modeled after” legislation that was introduced (and failed) last session: A House bill that aimed to end reimbursements from the state Department of Health to Planned Parenthood for family planning services. That bill died in the House Committee on Health last year.
Sari Stevens, executive director at Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the organization’s political arm in Pennsylvania, said the bill is “drafted in a way that it’s unclear exactly how it would be implemented,” but called it “a Planned Parenthood defunding bill” similar to measures they’ve seen in the past.
“There’s no doubt in our minds that the purpose is to ensure that any funds that flow through DHS cannot go to providers of abortion services or family planning,” she said. “It’s not an exact line, but it’s all setting up the chess pieces so that they have the ability to defund us.”
Eichelberger didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the bill. It’s still unclear what the dollar impact would be on both the state budget and on Planned Parenthood locations across the state.
Stevens said she also couldn’t put a dollar figure on how the bill might impact Planned Parenthood locations in Pennsylvania, but said the organization is concerned the bill could move through the legislature, unlike the past legislation. She pointed out that Senate Bill 300 was referred to the Finance Committee, not the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The latter committee is run by Sen. Lisa Baker, a Republican from Northeast Pennsylvania who has voted against other measures that target entities that provide abortion services.
Even if the bill would pass through both chambers in Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has at several points during his term said he would veto any measure that targets Planned Parenthood or abortion services.
What’s also unclear is if — or how — this state bill is related to federal legislation that recently passed the Senate regarding Title X family planning funds. Last week in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to pass a bill that rolled back an Obama-era rule that prevented states from withholding certain funds to Planned Parenthood and other entities that provide abortions.
This Senate bill comes in addition to Senate Bill 3, a controversial abortion bill that’s already passed the Senate and is awaiting approval from the House. That bill would change the current 24-week cutoff for abortions to 20 weeks and would make a technique called “dilation and evacuation” illegal and penalize doctors for performing it.
Here’s the full text of Senate Bill 300: