- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - A recently signed law by President Donald Trump has prompted Republican lawmakers in Arizona to include a provision in the state budget that cuts off about $2 million in funding for Planned Parenthood.

The organization uses the money to provide birth control and cancer screening services to poor women across the state and says the cuts may jeopardize five health centers across the state.

None of the money pays for any abortion services, instead being used to provide birth control, cancer screenings and health counseling for couples planning to become pregnant. But Republicans in Congress and at the state level want to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s money because it performs abortions, although they are a small portion of their overall business.

A regulation adopted by former President Barack Obama shortly before he left office barred states from blocking federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Congress narrowly passed a law to erase that rule, and Trump quickly signed it into law. That left an opening for lawmakers in Arizona and elsewhere to take away the Planned Parenthood money. The funds have become a potential target in Republican-controlled statehouses nationwide, including during recent debates over the budget in Nebraska.

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said in an interview that he pushed to get the provision into the budget because he opposes abortion services Planned Parenthood provides.

“It’s obviously been the policy of this place that we don’t want to send any more resources to the No. 1 abortion provider than we have to,” Mesnard said. “Obviously there’s been some challenges at the federal level. Some changes to the federal level though more in our direction have facilitated this possibility.”

Mesnard was referring to past efforts by the Legislature to bar Planned Parenthood from providing non-abortion services to state Medicaid patients that have been blocked by the courts. Medicaid law has a choice of provider provision that bars states from blocking patients from seeing otherwise qualified providers just because they also provide abortion services.

Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard said Wednesday the cuts may jeopardize health centers in Phoenix, Mesa, Flagstaff and Tucson.

He said the five clinics serve many uninsured patients and could close if they lose the federal family planning money. Planned Parenthood Arizona 2015-2016 annual report shows it made up about 15 percent of the nonprofit’s total revenue.

About 7,000 patients were served with that cash, but up to 20,000 patients could lose care if the five clinics now dependent on the funding close, Howard said. He questioned the morality of a proposal that cuts services to the poor because of hostility toward Planned Parenthood.

“In essence what is being said is we don’t care what the collateral damage is,” he said. “We do not care that 7,000 patients who live within two, three, four miles of our health center in Maryvale lose access to care in their own community. We just don’t care.”

Federal family planning money has been provided to health care providers in states since 1970 and Arizona has never applied to oversee the cash, Howard said.

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