ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The Republican health care proposal includes a section on Planned Parenthood. The American Health Care Act would deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood for a year unless the group stops performing abortions. Republicans have been trying for years to defund the organization. This is just the latest effort. Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, joins us now in the studio. Hi there.
CECILE RICHARDS: Hi.
SHAPIRO: How much money would Planned Parenthood stand to lose under the American Health Care Act, and how big an impact would that have?
RICHARDS: Well, the vast majority of our patients are on some kind of federal program and so see us through the Medicaid program or Title X. It's about upwards of $400 million in reimbursements. But what's really important, Ari, to understand is that we actually are not in the federal budget. We get reimbursed for the care we provide. And we have about 2 and a half million patients who come to see us every year.
SHAPIRO: So if you're talking about $400 million a year in federal reimbursements, if that were to disappear tomorrow, what would that mean for Planned Parenthood?
RICHARDS: It would mean millions of patients would actually go without care. And Speaker Ryan's whole message has been somehow that people should be able to pick their health care provider but, it seems to me, unless they go to Planned Parenthood or unless they're a woman who's looking for birth control services.
SHAPIRO: This bill says if funding to Planned Parenthood was cut off, there will be supplemental funding for other community health clinics. Would that make up the difference that you're talking about? It's just that these clinics would not perform abortion.
RICHARDS: The public health community has been abundantly clear that they cannot absorb the 2 and a half million patients that Planned Parenthood sees each year. In fact I was just in Speaker Ryan's own district where we have three health centers that provide only preventive services 'cause that's actually what we're talking about here 'cause federal funds don't pay for abortion services.
And in one of those towns - Racine, Wis. - in his district, there is no other safety net health care provider that provides family planning. And the women I spoke to who are our patients are desperately concerned, as are millions of people across the country - is where they're going to go.
SHAPIRO: Beyond the question of reimbursements for Planned Parenthood, there is a provision in this bill that would not allow people to use their tax credits to purchase health care plans that cover abortions. Who would be most impacted by that, and what would the likely outcome be?
RICHARDS: Yes, for women in the marketplace, in the exchange, you can't buy health insurance coverage that would include abortion coverage. And of course, like all of these attacks on women's health, they hurt low-income women the most.
SHAPIRO: Many Americans who oppose abortion say they do not want their taxpayer dollars going to an organization that performs a third of the country's abortions even if their tax dollars are not funding abortions, even indirectly. How do you respond to those American taxpayers who say they're offended by any of their dollars going to Planned Parenthood?
RICHARDS: Well, actually that's not really true. The vast majority of Americans want Planned Parenthood funded. And so that's actually not accurate. And I think...
SHAPIRO: Well, Americans who oppose abortion...
RICHARDS: Well, but - again, Planned Parenthood operates just like every other health care provider in this country that provides abortion services. We get reimbursed for preventive care. And I guess, you know, if you want to reduce unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion, the last thing you should do is try to deny women the access to family planning. This is a public good. It's a public health good. And the vast majority of people in this country support not only Planned Parenthood but the health care services that we provide.
SHAPIRO: There are at least two Republican senators - Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - who have said they don't want Planned Parenthood funding to be part of this health care bill. What kind of signals are you getting from Capitol Hill about the likelihood that this provision will stay in?
RICHARDS: Well, I mean we're working every day to make sure that members of Congress and members the United States Senate are hearing from patients back home 'cause we are in every single state in America. One in 5 women in this country have received health care from this organization, and to somehow wrap it up in the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, as Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski have said, is completely inappropriate and is literally going to create total chaos for women in America.
SHAPIRO: President Trump says funding will flow in full if Planned Parenthood just agrees to stop performing abortions. Would you ever?
RICHARDS: Absolutely not. You know, we provide full reproductive health care for people in this country. And even though abortions may make up a small percentage of what we do, women and families and young people come to Planned Parenthood 'cause they count on us to be on their side and to provide them the health care they need. Our motto is, care no matter what. And we take that promise very seriously.
SHAPIRO: Cecile Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood. Thanks for coming in today.
RICHARDS: Yeah, thanks for having me.
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