Hillary Clinton Condemns Arizona Lawmakers' Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

“We’re not going to let them get away with it,” is the message Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has for a group of Arizona state legislators trying to defund Planned Parenthood.

“This is the sort of same old tired playbook we’ve seen nationally from Republicans,’ Clinton’s director of women’s outreach and longtime women’s rights advocate, Mini Timmaraju, tells New Times.

Speaking on behalf of Clinton, Timmaraju says, “We’ve seen Arizona Republicans time and time again put politics first and jeopardize the health of women. When they attack women’s health, they attack America’s health…Hillary’s going to continue to stand with 2.7 million women and men who rely on Planned Parenthood.”

Ever since a series of controversial videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue sales surfaced this summer, Clinton repeatedly has called out Republican lawmakers’ attempts to use the videos to garner support for what she says is a war on women’s healthcare.

Like her Democratic colleagues Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, Clinton has condemned anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric from the mouths of Republican presidential candidates and state politicians throughout the country, but after news broke that three Arizona Republicans — Senate President Andy Biggs and Representatives Eddie Farnsworth and Warren Peterson — planned to effectively defund Planned Parenthood in the state by ending Medicaid reimbursements for things like contraception, cancer screenings, annual women’s exams, and other health services, her campaign was the first to publicly condemn the announcement.  

“Hillary Clinton believes that no politician should interfere with a woman’s personal medical decisions, and she’ll stand up against Republican attempts like these to restrict women’s access to critical health care services,” Timmaraju writes in a public statement.

In a subsequent interview with New Times, she adds that Clinton, whether as a candidate or as president, “will continue to fight against Republican attacks against Planned Parenthood. Women’s health will continue to be a core message of the campaign.”

When asked about the “facts” put forward in Biggs’ statement, Timmaraju says she’s “not shocked” by what she and others say are blatant inaccuracies about the organization but added that she’ll leave the task of specifically commenting on statement details to local Planned Parenthood employees.

Arizona State University students show their support for Planned Parenthood.EXPAND
Arizona State University students show their support for Planned Parenthood.
Miriam Wasser

So, to get a better sense of why Timmaraju and others feel Biggs’ announcement is a nefarious attempt to sabotage women’s healthcare and right to control their bodies, New Times asked Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, about some of his assertions:

New Times: Biggs says state funds have continued to be used for abortions. Is this true? Have any state funds been used for abortion?

Liggett: This is really not true in any real sense. There is an exemption in the law or abortions in case of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is threatened. I am aware of only a handful of these cases.

Taxpayer money does not pay for abortions here or anywhere, per the federal Hyde Amendment. Also note that the bulk of Medicaid funding is federal – Arizona (or any state) only matches Medicaid at 10 cents on the dollar.

NT: Biggs writes that “Pro-abortion advocates argue that funds for Planned Parenthood are being used for family services, not just abortion.” Can you comment on the word choice “pro-abortion?”

Liggett: Sigh. No one is “pro-abortion.” That’s why we work so hard on contraceptive counseling and family planning. If Arizona wants to reduce the number of abortions, which is the sounder approach, [why] try and legislate Planned Parenthood out of existence? [Why not] provide medications, devices, and services to prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place?

For real-life examples of these approaches, compare the situation in Texas, which arguably has the toughest restrictions in the nation that results in a huge number of medical emergencies from women trying to self-abort, to that of Colorado, which experienced unprecedented drops in unplanned and teen pregnancies (and a 42 percent reduction in abortion) by providing low- or no-cost long-acting reversible contraception.

NT: Biggs says, “There are hundreds of health care providers throughout the state. Planned Parenthood focuses on their profit-centers, the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas and neglecting rural Arizona.”

First question: does Planned Parenthood of Arizona make a profit?

Liggett: Deeper sigh. PPAZ is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Revenues rarely exceed costs, and our operations are generally subsidized by our legions of donor-supporters and their contributions. In the unlikely event that revenue were to exceed our costs, that money is plowed back into the organization.

NT: Second part of the question: Why does PP have clinics in some areas and not in others?

Liggett: I have to smile at criticism of the lack of coverage coming from legislators who have done their best to regulate us out of existence The requirements for admitting privileges and in-person physician visits for counseling…have made it impossible for us to sustain clinic operations in some areas of Arizona. Although we still have employees on the ground doing outreach and referral [in some of those areas].

NT: Biggs says, “The state does not need to provide taxpayer dollars to support Planned Parenthood [because] there are other service providers.” How much money do state taxpayers give PPAZ annually?

Liggett: There is no state taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood, other than the 10 percent match to Medicaid payments, which all other medical providers receive as well.

Hillary Clinton Condemns Arizona Lawmakers' Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood (2)

NT: Biggs writes, “The Federal government provides more than $500 million a year to Planned Parenthood.” How much of that money goes to PPAZ?

Liggett: Roughly 1.8 million per year in federal family planning money…Title X funds do not even pass through state government, they are direct to grantees and sub-grantees, [and none of the money is used for] abortion services.

NT: Can you comment on something Representative Peterson says in the press release: “We need to send a strong message that harvesting the body parts of aborted babies will not be tolerated. This is a barbaric practice and any organization engaged in this pernicious practice should not receive one dime from the hard working taxpayers of Arizona”?

Liggett: As the legislators who issued the press release know very well, there is no fetal tissue donation program in Arizona at all. [The Department of Health Services], at the Governor’s behest, specifically investigated this charge, and confirmed that we are not involved in any fetal tissue collection or donation.

Furthermore, tissue donation is a good thing for scientific research and those suffering from disease. It is highly offensive to denigrate the women across the country who, in their darkest hour, thought of others and donated their fetal tissue for lifesaving research.

Read Biggs' full statement:

Senate President Andy Biggs' press release outlining plans to defund PPAZ.
Senate President Andy Biggs' press release outlining plans to defund PPAZ.

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