A freshman House Republican sent a concise message to his party leaders Wednesday: Stop messing with Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Robert Dold, who represents the liberal suburbs of Chicago, on Wednesday unveiled the “Protecting Women’s Access to Health Care Act” outside the Capitol, which would forbid agencies and governments from denying Title X funds to a qualified organization.
“As a pro-choice Republican, I believe that this legislation is critical because it ensures nondiscrimination within the federal Title X family planning program,” Dold told reporters, standing alongside a Planned Parenthood official and the leader of a pro-choice Republican group.
The move follows a sustained GOP assault on Planned Parenthood over the fact that it performs abortions. House Republicans last year voted to deny the women’s health provider family planning funds, even though the funds are strictly to be used for non-abortion services — like breast exams and mammograms — that constitute most of Planned Parenthood’s work.
“We have seen in Congress and in several states across the country, an attempt to block funds to Title X participants simply because these providers separately provide services beyond the scope of Title X funding,” Dold said at his press conference. “This funding also provides preventative health care, HIV testing, annual exams, cancer screenings and so much more. … Nearly 70 percent of the individuals who utilize Title X funding are at or below the federal poverty level. This is why we must work to affirmatively protect access for the millions of women who receive health care through Title X participants.”
As much as Dold’s remarks implicitly rebuke his party’s leadership and the conservative base, his legislation also has a political upside for the GOP: With the presidential election just six months away, Republicans are in damage-control mode with women voters, who strongly favor Democrats. Dold’s legislation, even if it’s not taken up by GOP leaders, could help soften the party’s imagine among women.
House Republican and Democratic leadership aides declined to immediately weigh in.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.