Metro, Politics

Governor Baker Signs Bill to Fund Planned Parenthood

After overwhelming approval from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate earlier week, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill on Friday that will allocate $8 million of state funds to offset the potential loss of federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other women’s reproductive health organizations under proposed policy changes by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The bill was created in reaction to Trump’s proposed changes to Title X, a federal program that provides more than $250 million each year to family planning clinics that offer a wide variety of reproductive health care services ranging from STD testing and treatment to cancer screening to contraception.

Under the new rule, posted by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, any organization that provides abortion services, referrals, or even basic information to patients about services would be ineligible for Title X funding.

Although funding is expected to halt in early May for health centers that discuss abortion, 22 states including Massachusetts have filed lawsuits, seeking to block the policy from going into effect.

Opponents call the proposal a “gag rule” that will significantly limit the resources of Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide a wide range of reproductive health care services outside of abortion, primarily to low-income women.

Planned Parenthood clinics serve 41 percent of Title X recipients nationwide alone, and if these regulations go into effect, access to reproductive health care for four million low income women will be jeopardized, according to CNN.

“It gives women more options for their health care when a lot of times choice can be limited and restricted for reproductive health,” said Chloe Cuggino Zensky, student employee at the Women’s Center and MCAS ’21. “This bill protects women’s rights to more freedom and agency in making their own decisions and figuring out how to pay for it.”

In a statement released by the Associated Press, according to the most recent figures provided by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Massachusetts received $6.15 million in federal Title X funds and served about 75,000 patients in the 2017 fiscal year.

The House bill would replenish the $1.6 million that Massachusetts health clinics could lose before the end of the fiscal year, devoting $800,000 to the Department of Public Health, $428,500 to the Action for Boston Community Development and $375,750 to Health Imperatives.

“Once again, where Washington falls short, we in the Commonwealth are ready and willing to step up and fill the need and gap,” said Representative and House budget chief Aaron Michlewitz, in an official statement to the press following the passing of the bill in the House on Wednesday.

“We in this House are ready to put the pieces back together that those in Washington are shattering,” he said.

A staunch advocate of abortion rights from the onset, Baker voiced his opposition to the proposed changes and supported the bill.

“I think there’s unanimity among us that we should make sure that the federal policy change here does not affect women’s ability to access reproductive services in Massachusetts, period,” Baker told reporters from the Boston Globe.

“Signing this bill into law ensures women’s health providers across Massachusetts will continue to have access to these critical funds and we thank our colleagues in the legislature for their swift response to changes in federal policy,” he said.

March 31, 2019