Funding for Planned Parenthood debated in General Assembly

RICHMOND (AP) — A bill that would cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia is advancing in the General Assembly, despite facing a likely veto from the governor.

A Senate committee voted Thursday to send the bill introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, to the full chamber. It passed in the House of Delegates on Tuesday.

Cline’s bill would cut off federal Title X funding to abortion providers and redirect it to other health clinics. He says it’s meant to prioritize organizations that provide the “most comprehensive” services.

The state’s five clinics mostly provide cancer screenings, family planning services, contraceptive counseling, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, according to the organization. Nationally, abortions make up about 3 percent of Planned Parenthood services.

The organization says the loss of funding would “significantly undermine” services in Richmond, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville and Roanoke.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill, which passed both chambers in last year’s legislative session.

The bill states that the Virginia Department of Health “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”

Cline said his bill would direct the Title X money Virginia receives to more than 140 federally qualified and rural health clinics in Virginia. The legislation “ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded prior to abortion centers,” he said.

That means the state would cut off funds for organizations that offer abortions that are not eligible for matching funds under Medicaid. This would include any abortion outside of cases of rape, incest or “gross fetal anomalies.” The bill would not apply to licensed hospitals.

Cline introduced an identical bill in the 2016 legislative session. It passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. An attempt to override the veto in the House fell one vote short.