Many Republicans in the US have long yearned to cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood. The reproductive health organisation receives millions of dollars in federal funds every year, in return for providing services including sexual health check-ups and cancer screenings to 2.5 million women and men annually.
However, Planned Parenthood is also the largest provider of abortions in the US – and it’s for this reason that many in the Republican Party think the organisation should be denied access to federal tax money.
Now, the Trump administration has proposed what it clearly sees as a compromise. They will keep giving Planned Parenthood money… if the organisation agrees to stop performing abortions.
Officials at Planned Parenthood instantly rejected the White House’s informal suggestion, according to a report in the New York Times.
“Let’s be clear: federal funds already do not pay for abortions,” says Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Planned Parenthood currently benefits from around $500 million annually in government money. However, this funding supports women’s health services, such as STD testing and contraceptive advice. It is not permitted to be used to pay for abortion services.
Laguens says that Planned Parenthood would never agree to stop providing abortions to women in need in exchange for money.
“Offering money to Planned Parenthood to abandon our patients and our values is not a deal that we will ever accept,” she says. “Providing critical health care services for millions of American women in non-negotiable.”
President Trump has flip-flopped on his stance on abortion in the past. He is on record as saying he supported abortion rights as recently as 2011, but has now evidently changed his mind: one of his first moves as president was to sign a global gag order banning US organisations in foreign countries from discussing abortions with women.
Trump’s anti-abortion stance has also been reinforced by the men he has chosen to work alongside him. His chosen vice-president, Mike Pence, is an evangelical Christian who once said he hopes to see Roe v. Wade (the landmark legal decision that legalised abortion in the US) “consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs”.
However, Trump’s daughter and informal adviser Ivanka is reported to have asked him to think carefully about stripping Planned Parenthood of funding.
In a statement to the New York Times, Trump says that while he is “pro-life”, he is also “deeply committed to investing in women’s health”.
He adds that he plans to “significantly increase federal funding in support of non-abortion services such as cancer screenings”, arguing that “there is an opportunity for organizations to continue the important work they do in support of women’s health, while not providing abortion services.”
Watch: What are Trump’s policies?
Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says that she believes Trump suggested the funding compromise so that he could say he made an offer to Planned Parenthood, but that the organisation refused to work with him.
“The Trump administration needs to stop playing political games that would put access to the full range of safe reproductive care at risk,” she says. If not, she warns, the White House should to be ready for “the fight of their lives”.
On Twitter, user DesiJed sums up the issue.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t about stopping abortions, since [the] government doesn’t pay for that,” she writes. “It’s about controlling women and their sexuality.”
Images: Rex Features