GOP Hits Abortion Providers State by State

Having failed to defund them on the federal level, the party shifts its strategy to local legislatures.

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Late last week, Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a measure banning abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding.

The law, known as the Whole Woman's Health Funding Priority Act, discontinues funding for family planning and other health services offered by Planned Parenthood clinics and other organizations that provide abortions, according to a statement (pdf) released by her office.

"This is a commonsense law that tightens existing state regulations and closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly," Brewer said in the statement. "By signing this measure into law, I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion."

Brewer signed the measure while speaking at a reception for Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee devoted to helping elect anti-abortion officials to public office, including Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Cynde Cerf, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Arizona, told The Root that the agency was bracing for the measure, which would cut off funding for up to 4,000 poor women. The group used state funding to provide a variety of services to these women, including breast- and cervical-cancer screenings, birth control and annual exams.   

"We're waiting to see what is going to happen and how the law will affect our clients," said Cerf, whose agency has a diversity of funding streams besides the state and sees an estimated 44,000 first-time clients each year. "We're looking at what legal remedies we can pursue."

Since GOP lawmakers lost a bruising federal congressional battle to defund Planned Parenthood last year, they have led a charge on the state level with help from groups like SBA List to defund Planned Parenthood. SBA List, according to its news release, has provided state groups and legislators with model legislation, expert testimony and grassroots support. 

Planned Parenthood has been the target of most of the attacks because critics say it is responsible for overpopulating neighborhoods, especially those in which the majority of residents are black, with abortion clinics. But the Guttmacher Institute released statistics (pdf) last year showing that less than 10 percent of abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Indeed, more than half of women of reproductive age live in states hostile to abortion rights, Planned Parenthood officials say. So far North Carolina, Texas and Kansas have enacted legislation similar to Arizona's Whole Woman's Health Funding Priority Act. New Jersey, Indiana and Wisconsin have blocked public funding for abortion providers.

Some states have gone further, pushing measures that give rights to embryos through so-called personhood amendments or simply by banning abortions outright, so to speak, by making it so difficult for providers to operate that they are forced to close their doors.

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