GOP lawmakers complain about using government funds to prevent pregnancies and screen for cancer

They are using a GAO report to falsely suggest that taxpayer money is going to abortion.

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) in 2016. CREDIT: Black's Facebook page

Congressional Republicans who oppose abortion rights are once again taking aim at Planned Parenthood and other non-profit organizations that provide basic family planning and health services in the United States and around the world.

Their latest talking point: a new Government Accountability Office report that they requested that finds that a total about $500 million went to three of these organizations annually in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

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Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a leading anti-choice members of Congress, hailed the GAO report, released Thursday, as “breaking” news that “reveals more than $1.5 BILLION in taxpayer $ is going to the big abortion industry.” An array of her House and Senate colleagues followed suit.

Given that Black has previously served as chair of the House Budget Committee, this number should come as no surprise to her. In fact, three years ago she put out a similarly outraged statement when the same office reported that about $1.5 billion in public funds had gone to Planned Parenthood between 2010 and 2012. Then, as now, she dismissed this as public money going to “abortion providers.”

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While it is true that a fraction of these groups’ efforts do go toward providing abortions — a fundamental reproductive health care service — that is not actually where the public funds go.

Instead, as the 2015 report notes, they go to programs to “assist individuals in planning and spacing births, preventing unintended pregnancies, and screening for sexually transmitted infections, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.” The latest also specifically notes that federal funds “for domestic activities are generally not available to pay for abortions, except where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the life of the pregnant woman would be endangered unless an abortion is performed,” in keeping with federal law.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) was even more dishonest, tweeting that Planned Parenthood “performs 3 abortions every 5 minutes with their tax dollars.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) similarly misled, claiming: “An audit, released today by a government watchdog, GAO, demonstrates the abortion industry’s push to integrate abortion into primary healthcare services.” A joint press release put out by Black, Smith, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) also repeats the widely-debunked claim that that some of the Planned Parenthood affiliates may have committed “criminal misconduct regarding fetal tissue transfer.”

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These false statements not only stigmatize abortion and smear Planned Parenthood, but they also come at a time when the anti-choice congressional Republican majority is preparing another attempt to strip the organization of the funding it needs to provide nearly 5 million women, men, and children each year with education, STD testing, cancer screenings, and birth control.