The Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia comes out publicly against funding for the leading women's & LGBTQ health organization.
Marilyn Drew Necci | August 3, 2017
The speculation is over. For the first time, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie has gone on record in opposition to Planned Parenthood. Speaking to Planned Parenthood volunteers at a Women For Ed Meet & Greet that took place at Q Barbeque in Glen Allen yesterday evening, Gillespie stated, ”I would sign a bill that does not have taxpayer funding go to Planned Parenthood.” The resourceful volunteers caught the exchange on video, and the video was posted to Twitter last night by Ralph Northam’s press secretary, Ofirah Yheskel.
— Ofirah Yheskel (@ofirahy) August 3, 2017
The video confirms suspicions widely held about Gillespie’s beliefs regarding Planned Parenthood. Having previously stated that he wanted to see abortion banned, Gillespie has seemingly hardened the stance he took during his 2014 attempt to win Mark Warner’s Senate seat, during which he claimed to favor abortion in cases of rape, incest, or the mother’s life being at risk. “I think it is a taking of an innocent human life,” Gillespie said in April.
Planned Parenthood has been at the center of widespread political debate for what feels like years now (because honestly, it HAS been years), throughout the presidential election season and beyond. Once Donald Trump was elected, the outgoing Obama administration did what they could to prevent an immediate defunding of Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations at the state level, issuing a rule only days before Obama left office barring state governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services, regardless of whether they also do abortions.
However, by mid-April, President Trump had signed legislation overturning the rule and allowing states and localities to deny funding to family planning services who also perform abortions. Since this ruling, speculation has heated up about whether or not Gillespie, who must balance his far-right base and an increasingly-less-conservative overall Virginia electorate if he hopes to defeat Ralph Northam in November, would align himself with Trump on this issue. Yesterday’s statement marks the first time Gillespie has been definitive on the subject of Planned Parenthood, letting us know he’s with Trump all the way on this one.
After telling the Planned Parenthood volunteer that he’d sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, Gillespie attempted to soften the blow by saying, “As you know, most of their contributions come from the private sector.” According to Planned Parenthood’s Annual Report for 2016, 41% of their funding last year came from “government health services reimbursements & grants,” which refers specifically to Medicaid and Title X reimbursements Planned Parenthood receives for family planning services, and for care they offer to economically disadvantaged citizens.
This gets to the root of a major misconception about Planned Parenthood: that by funding the organization, the federal government is funding abortions. Under the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, federal funds cannot be used for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment to the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood has received a great deal of heat over the years from pro-life conservatives like Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, who claimed on the Senate floor in 2011 that ”well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does” is provide abortions.
In contrast to Senator Kyl’s comments, factcheck.org found that 3% of what Planned Parenthood did was provide abortions, with 10% of patients receiving this particular service. In addition to the hot-button issues like abortion, emergency contraception, and birth control, Planned Parenthood also provides services valued by the LGBTQ community, including hormone replacement therapy for transgender patients. For economically marginalized trans people who often struggle to find jobs offering health benefits, Planned Parenthood’s service in this area makes them an essential support network for many trans people in the Commonwealth.
Planned Parenthood also offers essential women’s health services, extending far beyond the typical picture painted by Republican politicians. This fact was pointed out by House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring in her response to Gillespie’s comments earlier today. “Health care is a right, and women deserve access to safe, reliable health care,” said Herring. “One in five women will visit a Planned Parenthood in her lifetime, seeking services ranging from birth control to cancer screenings. Through breast exams, Pap smears and STD testing, Planned Parenthood saves lives. House Democrats will continue to stand up to these Republican attacks on women’s health.”
The issue of Planned Parenthood being defunded here in Virginia has already come up once this year. In February, after Governor McAuliffe vetoed a bill attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, the House Of Delegates came very close to overriding that veto, getting 62 votes in favor. Since a veto override requires a 2/3 majority, the override was narrowly defeated, possibly thanks to five delegates, all of whom had previously supported the legislation, not showing up to vote.
At this point, Planned Parenthood’s funding in Virginia hangs in the balance, with the gubernatorial election this November being a major factor. Planned Parenthood clearly recognizes this fact, releasing a statement yesterday that they will be spending $3 million in support of Ralph Northam, Gillespie’s Democratic opponent, ahead of an official endorsement planned for today. Northam’s strong record in favor of women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ civil rights draws a strong contrast between he and Gillespie, so it’s no surprise that Planned Parenthood will be joining Equality Virginia in endorsing him for governor.