After having spent a record-breaking amount of cash in the presidential campaign, Planned Parenthood is looking forward to its return on investment in an administration led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The not-for-profit organization for reproductive health care spent $45 million on the race, the highest electoral spending to date. Nearly $10 million was spent in the major states that voted for President Donald Trump four years ago but were turned around for Biden.
Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson told Washington Newsday that it was crucial for the organization to put all hands on deck after watching the Trump administration “fight so hard to undermine access to reproductive and sexual health care.
Now Planned Parenthood is working closely with the Biden Harris transition team to ensure that they are “ready to be fully operational from day one.
“The first thing we’d like to see is an implementation decree on day one, within the first 100 days, that demonstrates the government’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health care,” Johnson said.
Planned Parenthood wants Biden to immediately abolish the global “gagging rule” expanded under Trump, which prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. Global Health Assistance from providing information or services for legal abortion, and restore funding for the Title X Family Planning Program. The President-Elect has expressed support for this policy, which can be implemented through executive action.
Planned Parenthood left the Title X program, which is a federal grant program that allows low-income patients to receive family planning and reproductive health services, after the Trump administration passed a regulation that prevents providers from promoting or performing abortions. It is estimated that this rule, which has been denounced by women’s health organizations and the American Medical Association, has affected about 900 clinics nationwide.
But Planned Parenthood is looking not only for Biden to reverse the rule, but also for its administration to strengthen the Title X program in the budget. The Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice, a policy agenda developed by a coalition of reproductive health and justice organizations, of which Planned Parenthood is a part, estimates the amount needed at $954 million. The program typically receives $280 million annually.
“This is a 50-year-old program, so we need to think about how we can modernize it, how we can meet the needs of all people by thinking about all the ways in which sexual and reproductive health care has changed,” Johnson said. The LGBTQ community and men are largely left out of Title X, she noted.
Other items the organization will look at in Biden’s initial budget include the federal teen pregnancy grant, which focuses on comprehensive sexual education, and Medicaid funding. The budget may also signal whether the new government wants to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prevents low-income people from accessing the care they need, including abortion, when they are in the Medicaid program.
“The budget is an important opportunity to show how this government would prioritize these programs, which have long been woefully underfunded,” said Jacqueline Ayers, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy for Planned Parenthood.
But most discussions with the Biden Harris transition team, Johnson said, focused on appointments within the White House, the administration and various federal agencies. The Planned Parenthood organization and its allies have identified and recommended nearly 200 people for key positions.
“We know that personnel is politics,” Johnson said. “That’s why we make sure that these positions are filled with sexual and reproductive health champions.
But not everything that Biden promised or that supports planned parenthood can be achieved through the president’s actions alone. He will need the support of Congress to achieve things like the repeal of the Hyde Amendment or the codification of Roe v. Wade, two proposals that would meet with resistance in a Republican-controlled Senate.
In addition, there is the long-term challenge that Trump has to face with the reorganization of the federal judiciary. He has appointed hundreds of conservative judges to the Bundesbank, including three Supreme Court judges. The new conservative 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court leaves many pro-abortion rights advocates concerned about Roe’s future.
Last month, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas and Louisiana can remove planned parenthood from their Medicaid programs, a victory for anti-abortion rights opponents who have tried to cut off state funding for the organization. And there are at least 17 cases just a step away from being brought before the new Supreme Court that could threaten access to abortion rights.
Planned Parenthood acknowledged the obstacle, saying that the reproductive health movement “unfortunately” relied on the courts to back it up and protect the right to access and care.
“This is one of the reasons why we as an organization have focused on electing reproductive rights advocates up and down the polls,” Johnson said. She also noted that Planed Parenthood must continue to work in states with legislation that has adopted restrictive reproductive health laws.
The organization will also rely on strong public support for reproductive rights. In 2019, several surveys showed that public support for abortion in the United States was the highest in decades.
“We will continue to work toward a time when we know that the White House, House of Representatives and Senate reflect the views of the majority of voters,” Ayers said.
Washington Newsday turned to the Biden Harris transition team for comment, but did not listen back in time for release.